Few twentieth-century composers boast such a wide and various range of works as those of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976). This Englishman was successful as an opera composer, wrote reams of film music and had an equal facility for producing works for both chorus and chamber ensemble. As an orchestral composer, too, Britten showed himself to be a shrewd and inventive craftsman. An ideal figure, then, for a composer 'happening' full to bursting with bold orchestral pieces and intimate chamber music. The whole event is in the safe charge of the prospective principal conductor of deFilharmonie, Edo de Waart.
Britten wrote 'Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge' - a tribute to his former teacher - in fulfilment of a commission from The Boyd Neel Orchestra, a virtuoso string ensemble whose technical prowess he exploited to the full in the score. 'The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra' was likewise a set of variations, this time on the well-known rondo theme from Purcell's 'Abdelazar', and was initially conceived as a score for a documentary film for young people about the various instruments of the orchestra - hence the introduction of the instruments one by one. Britten's Piano Concerto couples energetic bravura playing with sultry waltzes and bouncy march music; in the slow third movement, lyrical melodic lines are edged with pianistic gold brocade. The 'Death in Venice' suite brings together the best music from the opera of the same name. Anyone looking for a few moments away from all the symphonic bombast ought not to miss the 'Canticles', a work that one seldom gets to hear live! In these five dramatic scenes on religious themes, Britten spins expressive vocal lines within a close-knit framework of divergent, vocal chamber settings. Since winning the Tromp Competition in 2008, the young British-South African Heath Quartet has been a welcome guest in the major Dutch concert halls; the favourite of this foursome is Britten's first youthful quartet. We come then to the famous Cello Sonata, inspired by the composer's friendship with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and played during this 'happening' by the same cellist who brought us the Cello Concerto earlier in the season - Alban Gerhardt, here with his permanent accompanist, Steven Osborne.