Ahead of my debut with the English Chamber Orchestra this March (2019), I wrote an article for the “Cross-Eyed Pianist” on Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings.
“What, to me, is so remarkable in this piece is how Britten uses the horn as an unspoken commentator on the text sung by the Tenor. This is introduced in the Prologue which is a short movement for solo horn, setting a rather haunting atmosphere that sets up the reflective mood of the following movement, the Pastoral. Britten was seemingly trying very hard to push the limits of a seemingly invincible Dennis Brain, indicating that the Prologue be played on the natural partials of the horn; a recipe for disaster for many other horn players! He makes particular use of the 7th, 11th and 14th partials which, on the horns natural configuration, are “out of tune” to our modern tempered ears. I like to think that Britten was both pushing forward in terms of technical challenges and musical idiom but also looking back, using the natural harmonics of an instrument very much connected to nature, a theme that is central to the Serenade.”
Read the full article HERE