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Five Flower Songs, Op 47

First line:
There was an old man liv'd out in the wood
Spring 1950; first performed on 23 July 1950 at Dartington Hall; dedicated to Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst

If Britten abjured the manner of his immediate English predecessors and contemporaries in the sacred choral music of the forties, in the Five Flower Songs Op 47, first performed in the spring of 1950 he directly emulated it. Here are five charming pieces, written for botanical enthusiasts Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst of Dartington, that follow in the line of pastoral English part-songs, the staple diet of Edwardians Elgar, Parry and Stanford. The songs move from the delicate imitative music of the Herrick setting To daffodils to a more wistful approach in The succession of the four sweet months by the same poet. Then comes Marsh flowers by George Crabbe; this poet wrote the original poem of Peter Grimes and Britten retained a fondness for him throughout his life. The melodic lines are more angular here and the harmonic language frequently pushes away from the more stable world of the first two songs as the composer describes a series of less immediately attractive plants such as the ‘slimy root’ of the strong mallow or ‘dull nightshade’ with her ‘deadly root’. John Clare’s The evening primrose returns us to a more gentle and pensive world and this short cycle finishes with a boisterous rendition of the Ballad of green Broom, as the singers tell the cheerful tale in music of increasing pace and virtuosity.

from notes by Simon Whalley 2013


Britten: Sacred and Profane & other choral works
Mealor & Britten: … the flowers have their angels
Studio Master: SIGCD366Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


No 1: To daffodils  Fair daffodils, we weep to see
author of text

Track 1 on CDH55438 [2'01]
Track 18 on SIGCD366 [2'16] Download only
No 2: The succession of the four sweet months  First, April, she with mellow showers
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Track 2 on CDH55438 [2'13]
Track 19 on SIGCD366 [2'07] Download only
No 3: Marsh flowers  Here the strong mallow strikes her slimy root
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Track 3 on CDH55438 [2'09]
Track 20 on SIGCD366 [2'29] Download only
No 4: The evening primrose  When once the sun sinks in the west
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Track 4 on CDH55438 [2'47]
Track 21 on SIGCD366 [2'37] Download only
No 5: Ballad of green Broom  There was an old man liv'd out in the wood
author of text

Track 5 on CDH55438 [2'15]
Track 22 on SIGCD366 [2'29] Download only

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