Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

Britten wrote few canticle settings - only two Te Deums, two settings of the Jubilate and a Venite.  The Te Deum in C, scored for chorus and organ with an alternative version for strings, harp and chorus, is the finest of his liturgical settings. Packed with drama, energy, variety, and integrity of structure. It reveals the originality of Britten’s creative mind.

The opening page sets the scene and introduces the pedal syncopated ostinato that underpins the whole of the first section and the ‘reprise’ when it comes after the contrasting central section. The voices climb from the bass up to soprano in quietly urgent statements of ‘We praise you’ and build to a huge climax at ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth’. The central section is given to a soprano soloist with the choir reinforcing his or her phrase ends with quietly urgent chords and the words ‘O Christ!’ Longer phrases develop and lead to the reintroduction of the pedal ostinato and the initial choral material. Another thrilling climax is reached before the beautiful quiet ending.  

©Paul Spicer

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