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Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Vittoria

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Uploaded by: Agnus_Dei (11/05/12)
Composer: Britten, Benjamin
Sample Producer: Lavender Audio
Sample Set: Hereford Cathedral Willis Organ
Software: Hauptwerk IV
Genre: Modern
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) is recognized as one of the greatest composers of this century. He grew up in the shadow of figures such as Vaughan Williams, Elgar, and Holst. His professors at the Royal College tried to push him in the direction of these composers, teaching the style of composition closely associated with Vaughan Williams. Britten found no interest in this style, which made much use of modal harmonies from the past. The young Britten preferred the music being composed on the Continent: the music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. He found a mentor and confidant in Frank Bridge. His respect for his teacher is evidenced by his composition "Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge."

The "Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Vittoria" (St. Matthew's Day, 1946) was written for the patronal feastday of St Matthew’s, Northampton, a church with a long history of comissioning new and significant works. It is Britten's most well-known piece of solo organ music. It is idiomatically written for the instrument, but I find it tricky to get just right.

I actually find that I play this "better" if I just "wing it," rather than working out all the details. ;-) This is the version with all the details worked out... :-(

The theme – a fragment of nine notes – forms the basis of a pedal cadenza in the prelude. It is also the theme of the fugue, which has more the form of an ostinato than that of a formal fugue such as those of Bach.

The theme is based upon the motif of Tomas Luis de Victoria's motet, "Ecce Sacerdos magnus" (1585), and is itself based upon the first plainsong antiphon for the Second Vespers of the Common of a Confessor Bishop.

As an amusing side note, Britten used the version "Vittoria" in the title, to avoid confusion with either the queen or the railway station!

I think I actually read that someplace, but I can't be certain... ;-)
Performance: Live
Recorded in: Stereo
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