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Britten and the Guitar: Critical Perspectives for Performers Benjamin Dwyer's Britten and the Guitar: Critical Perspectives for Performers is the first important study of the guitar works of Benjamin Britten.

Britten and the Guitar: Critical Perspectives for Performers

Publication Date 31st, August, 2016

ISBN 978-1-909325-87-6

Cost 25.00

Benjamin Dwyer’s Britten and the Guitar: Critical Perspectives for Performers is the first important study of the guitar works of Benjamin Britten. This book offers more than an objective analytical study of these compositions. Dwyer draws upon his expertise as a classical guitarist, composer and musicologist to deliver a multi-lensed examination of this music providing broad contexts and unique insights.

Dwyer not only explores the intricate relationship between Britten, his life-long partner, the tenor Peter Pears and the guitarist Julian Bream, for whom all the guitar works were written, but goes further in situating the Renaissance composer and lutenist John Dowland as a central and inspirational figure that hovers over all Britten’s guitar works. In so doing, he provides unique insights into Britten’s compositional approach demonstrating how techniques of musical rhetoric, exemplified by Dowland, are central to his musical idiolect.

Britten’s Chinese-poetry settings are amplified through a broader study of Chinese poetics; and his folksong arrangements are contextualized in his desire to set folksong against the norms established by the composers of the English pastoral school. Dwyer further situates Britten’s tonal language as a construct of self-insurgent tendencies—tensions brought about as a result of the composer’s unease as a homosexual living in a heteronormative society. Britten’s Second Lutesong of the Earl of Essex, in Bream’s arrangement, is placed within its context as a central linchpin to Britten’s opera Gloriana.

Significantly, Dwyer brings to world attention the heretofore-unknown Courtly Dances ‘Aldeburgh Version’—a work for guitar and orchestra performed only twice in the 1950s and 1960s, and since forgotten. Held at the Britten-Pears Library archive since 1957, this score remained lost to the guitar world until rediscovered by the author. Dwyer provides a perceptive and contextualizing analysis of the ‘Aldeburgh Version’ that will be key to introducing this unknown work to contemporary guitarists.

Finally, Dwyer interprets Britten’s Nocturnal, after John Dowland not only as a major work in the guitar repertoire but also as a significant landmark in Britten’s output, as it signposts, alongside Curlew River, Britten’s last stylistic phase in composition. Britten and the Guitar: Critical Perspectives for Performers is an essential text for the professional guitarist and singer, the committed teacher, and those who simply wish to understand more about this unique body of music by one the 20th-century’s most enigmatic composers.

 

 

 

Reviews

Britten and the Guitar

Reviewed by : Fabio Zanon

By overlooking Britten’s works for (or with) guitar, previous authors have missed an important point about him: the ability to convey the feeling of exclusion and confinement by reducing the range of one’s writing, while maintaining compositional cohesion and clarity. I was eager to learn how a fine composer and guitarist like Benjamin Dwyer could enlighten us about the older Benjamin's compositional process. But Britten and the Guitar: Critical Perspectives for Performers is so much more than an academic study. Dwyer makes a drone of cultural observation hover over Dowland, Purcell, folksong, philosophy and poetry. Britten’s musical personality emerges magnified not only by his unerring compositional decisions, but also by the cultural affinities that led him to those paths. The composer’s guitar works now appear to be even stronger. As a performer, reading this book has saved me many years of research, analysis and pondering. One shouldn’t do without it.
Fabio Zanon

 

Britten and the Guitar

Reviewed by : Eliot Fisk

Benjamin Dwyer’s Britten and the Guitar: Critical Perspectives for Performers goes on to my short list of great books about music and musicians. Dwyer steers deftly between the Scylla of pedantry and the Charybdis of gossipy klatsch to offer a treasure trove of interesting facts and vivid portraits of great musicians spanning a long arc of Western culture from the ancient Greeks through the Elizabethan era and on into the 21st century. Reading this book is an enriching educational experience, yet parts of it read like a thriller. As a guitarist myself, I am particularly gratified that Dwyer has ennobled our instrument by this captivating study. At the same time, the unique insights afforded by his treatment of Britten’s guitar oeuvre shed a new light on this eternally fascinating and complex man and his endlessly rich legacy.
Eliot Fisk


Britten and the Guitar: Critical Perspectives for Performers

Reviewed by : Xuefei Yang

Benjamin Dwyer’s Britten and the Guitar: Critical Perspectives for Performers is a scholarly and penetrating investigation of the life and guitar music of one of the most enigmatic composers of the 20th century. This is the first book to explore Britten’s guitar works and it offers an extraordinary range of fascinating insights into the man and his music. Dwyer is a guitarist, composer and musicologist who has spent decades performing Britten’s music and so comes to his subject not only as a researcher but also as an expert practitioner. This book is essential reading for all those who wish to perform or teach Britten’s remarkable music for the guitar. 

 

About the Author(s)

Benjamin Dwyer

 

Table of Contents

There are no Table of Contents for this publication at present.

 

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