Benjamin Britten’s early Te Deum in C dates from 1934 and is the first of two settings of that text in his small output of church music. It is an effective work of great economy and formal clarity. From the outset the organ asserts itself as equal partner to the choir which grows from a hushed beginning with a simple chord of C major, edgily underpinned by the organ pedals’ bell-like marcato, into a dramatic cry of ‘Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth’, at which point the music suddenly leaves C major for the first time, eventually settling gently into a peaceful A major. Now a treble soloist takes over (‘Thou art the King of glory, O Christ’), the organ pedal motif still in evidence, and the choir gently echoing the words ‘O Christ’. At ‘O Lord, save thy people’ the opening sound and style returns, skilfully using the basic chord of C major to build tension and excitement towards the climax ‘And we worship thy Name’ and animato coda (‘Vouchsafe, O Lord: to keep us this day without sin’), giving way finally to the serene ‘let me never be confounded’ which returns us to the low-lying C major with which we began.
from notes by James O'Donnell © 2005