Literary Britten

Dramatises the complex friendship between WH Auden and Benjamin Britten, through songs, letters, diary entries and poetry, performed by Alex Jennings, Iain Burnside, and Robin Tritschler.

I felt deeply indebted to the performers for a mini-epiphany regarding Britten and the art of accompaniment. This was certainly the case harmonically in “Hälfte des Lebens” but seemed also the case metrically in the setting of the Irish folk song “At the mid hour of night”.

The protagonist hopes to meet a now departed lover in musical communion, despite their residence in separate worlds. This haunting divide came across with powerful understatement in the piano’s “inability” to join the voice in a simple triple meter. I felt in that operatic moment that voice and accompaniment were not leader and follower, but two equal voyagers; sharing a journey, yet retaining their individuality. This was highlighted by the supreme musicianship of Tritschler and Burnside who, presumably with limited rehearsal, seemed able to communicate entirely by listening and feeling.

This was such a well conceived and performed programme that it would be nice to think that the performers might get further mileage from it. If it turns out to be a one-off, then I was very glad to have been there.

Alan Coady, Bachtrack, 20 September 2013