Antiphon op. 56b by : Benjamin Britten
for SATB with three treble/soprano solos (which Britten indicates can be reduced to one soloist or a semi-chorus) and organ
Text: George Herbert
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Difficulty level: 3
This work was written for the centenary of St. Michael's College; Tenbury. As so often; Britten uses treble or soprano solos which he indicates should be sung preferably in a gallery apart from the choir. Ever the practical composer; however; he also allows that these solo parts can be reduced to one voice or be sung by a small group of voices.
The anthem is an interesting conception and its structure takes its cue both from the early part of Herbert's text which says: 'Praise be the God of Love; Here below And here above...'; and the end of the poem which says: 'Praise be the God alone; Who has made of two folds one'. It is this division into two which led him into the idea of two groups of singers. It is more than this; though; as the first group; the main choir; has two roles; the singing of energetic phrases in a quicker tempo; and the quiet response to a slower solo line. Having moved backwards and forwards between these two characters the choir eventually sings an uplifting 'fugato' which builds up a terrific head of steam with the organ part growing into crashing alternate hand chords and the pedals taking wing from the bottom to the top (literally) of the pedal board. A brief silence; and a chorale-like line subsides into a magical quiet ending where the three soloists sing triads to the word 'one' whilst the chorus responds with a lower triad on the word 'two'. The whole thing resolves onto a widely-spaced chord of F major and everyone singing the word 'one'. A slightly sentimental or glib touch? No; take it at face value after all that has gone before and appreciate Herbert's imagery. It is a wonderful resolution of the two elements played out through the piece.
As with many other such works; the Antiphon requires an accomplished organist. The choir also needs to be confident both in their notes and rhythm. This is a rarely performed work which should really be much better known and more often performed than at present. It is certainly within t
. . . . Sample Audio & etc. . . .
Antiphon (performance excerpt)
On the recording
|Publisher||Boosey & Hawkes|
| Format ||SATB with Optional Solos and Organ|
| Length x Width ||10.5 x 6.75 inches |
| Shipping Weight||0.13 pounds |
|East Coast Music Product Code ||ZHL48008875|
|UPC Code||73999653496 |
|Voicing Description||SATB Score|
| 1st Publication Date||06/2004|
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