The Holiday Diary (Tales)
of 1934, dedicated in the first published edition of 1935 to Arthur Benjamin, the composer’s piano teacher at the RCM, were later—in a sense—re-dedicated on the manuscript given to Britten’s friend, the pianist Clifford Curzon (‘who made them his’). They show Britten’s sharp sense of the descriptive and that boyish sense of fun which never entirely deserted him. The exuberant ‘Early Morning Bathe’ (Britten loved swimming) is irresistible with its hesitant shivers before taking the plunge, its wave-like arpeggios gathering momentum into warmer tonal waters, and the shivers in reverse of its coda as the bather emerges from the water. ‘Sailing’ broaches a vein of melodic serenity (parodied in a turbulent middle section) that was to prove consistent in many a more emotionally serious situation in Britten. The delights of the ‘Fun-Fair’ (a brisk toccata-like rondo with descriptive episodes) are a riot of piano sonority. The work concludes with an atmospheric night-piece in which the ghosts of former themes from the suite float past.
from notes by Eric Roseberry © 1995