(01) KING ARTHUR - Scenes from a Radio Drama - Parts & Score, 2018 NATIONAL FINALS TESTPIECES, TEST PIECES (Major Works)

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Published 25th March 2018

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(01) KING ARTHUR - Scenes from a Radio Drama - Parts & Score, 2018 NATIONAL FINALS TESTPIECES, TEST PIECES (Major Works)

Cat No. JM102672
Price £79.95
Composer: Benjamin Britten
Arranger: Paul Hindmarsh


Grade 5
Duration 14.00

Set as the First Section test piece for the 2018 National Finals of the British Brass Band Championships of Great Britain - The Centaur, Cheltenham Saturday and Sunday 15th. & 16th. September.
This colourful suite incorporates the Introduction, a dramatic Wild Dance, some of the music underscoring the scenes for Galahad and The Holy Grail, and two vivid battle scenes, ending with The Final Battle and Apotheosis.

A suite in four movements :

King Arthur was the first of 28 scores which Benjamin Britten (1913-V1976) composed for BBC or CBS radio between 1937 and 1947. Radio was in its infancy in the 19305. King Arthur was a pioneering project. It was an ambitious dramatization of Arthur’s life and times  - part pageant, part play, part cantata  Written by D.G. Bridson. Britten composed the music during March and April 1937. The first broadcast was given on 23 April (St. George’s Day) 1937, shortly before the coronation of George VI on 12 May. Val Gielgud was the director and the music was performed by the BBC Chorus and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Clarence Raybould.
The 23—year-old composer was Bridson’s third choice for the project, Arnold Bax and Rutland Boughton having declined the commission. Having originally scheduled King Arthur for broadcast over Christmas 1926, Bridson used the postponement to expand the scope of the drama, including references to George VI, ‘who shall rule justly and righteously’. His drama followed Arthur’s life from childhood (‘The Sword in the Stone’) to his death (‘The Last Battle’) in l8 scenes, each of which was prefaced by narrative verse. A distinguished cast for this 9O minute epic included a young Michael Redgrave as Galahad.
Bridson was delighted with the music and Britten noted in his diary that it ‘certainly comes off like hell !’. However, Britten was less enthusiastic about the script, which he considered dull, stilted and uninspiring, ‘a pale pastiche of Malory’. He composed 22 music cues, which he derived from two simple, memorable themes, My brass hand suite includes the most substantial orchestral items presented in narrative sequence, except for a ‘Wild Dance’, which I have moved forward to provide the second item in an Overture. Britten reused this virtuoso music in his Ballad of Heroes (Op.l4). The second movement, Galahad and The H05» Grail, presents three of the lyrical items underscoring Galahad, Merlin’s spell and a vision of the Holy Grail. In 1945, Britten used the theme again when writing a new slow movement for his Piano Concerto (Op. 13, 1938). My third movement combines a percussion episode, galloping theme and lament underscoring Lancelot’s pursuit of Arthur, While the music of the finale describes ‘The Final Battle’ and Arthur’s death. While the substance of Britten’s music remains
unchanged, I have made some adjustments to facilitate smooth musical transitions and brass voicing.
King Arthur (Scenes from a radio drama) for brass band should not be confused with a much longer orchestral suite which I devised from the same source in 1995. This suite received its first performance on 23 October 1995 at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall by the Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lutz Kohler. It was subsequently recorded by the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Richard Hickox (Chandos CHAN 9487).


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