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A concert featuring the forgotten wartime music of Benjamin Britten will take place in Manchester on October 3. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth, the performance will be given by the Halle Orchestra and feature music written for various films and radio plays by Britten throughout World War II.
Works will include the score for An American in England, a six-part radio play about English life that aired in 1942 on the United States CBS radio network. Other featured scores include the soundtrack to Night Mail, a documentary film produced by the GPO Film Unit about the mail train route from London to Scotland. Most of these works were composed for around five or six performers, but have since undergone full orchestration.
Halle composer emeritus Colin Matthews has praised Britten’s "substantial scores as full of colour and excitement,” with the composer’s ability “to create memorable music out of simple ideas, just as evident here as it is in his major works.”
Matthews also suggests these wartime works show glimpses of the style Britten would go onto use in his first full opera Peter Grimes – a major success when it opened in 1945.
"It's almost as if, with Peter Grimes already in his mind, these works for film and radio was him limbering up for the 'soundworld' that he would create in that opera," Matthews said.
Titled 'Britten in Wartime', the concert will be held in Bridgewater Hall and narrated by British actor Samuel West.
You are able to listen live here to the BBC Radio 3 broadcast on October 3.