Britten wrote a considerable quantity of music during his school years, much of it ambitious and demonstrating a striking stylistic eclecticism. Much simpler in its understated poignancy is his well-known A Hymn to the Virgin
, for double choir, composed on 9 July 1930 during an enforced spell in the sick-bay at Gresham’s School, Holt, when Britten was only sixteen years old. (This was his final year at school, and two months later he entered the Royal College of Music to study composition and piano.) In 1934 he deemed the piece worthy of publication but transposed the music down a semitone to make it more comfortable to sing and amended some of the harmonic progressions.
from notes by Mervyn Cooke © 2001