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The inevitable pairing of the names of Britten and Purcell, a pairing promoted by Britten himself, was one in which he was linked to Britain’s ‘only’ composer. In response, Britten willingly took on the mantle of hope for English composition. At the same time, there is no doubt that the Britten felt an affinity with the earlier composer, and drew considerable strength and inspiration from his works. However, although Britten’s response is often presented as a personal one, this article suggests that his engagement with Purcell’s music was part of an earlier and broader picture of the use and reuse of earlier English music in the first decades of the twentieth century. His engagement with Purcell’s music, which included realisations of his songs and the use of forms and techniques associated with the composer, was at its most intense in 1945, and was focused on the period round 21 and 22 November, the dates of the Wigmore Hall concerts which saw the premieres of Britten’s Quartet No. 2 and The Holy Sonnets of John Donne. The reception of Britten’s ‘Purcell’ works was sometimes mixed, but this article concludes that for Britten, it was a matter of supreme enjoyment.
This chapter focuses on the chaconne and demonstrates how existing approaches to pitch in Adès’s employment of the form in Arcadiana, Concerto conciso and the Violin Concerto are enriched through an appreciation of his handling of rhythm and texture to generate larger-scale musical and dramatic structures. In the three instrumental movements examined in this chapter the pitch structure of Adès’s chaconnes undergo the usual kinds of changes expected of this variation form. Attending to only the pitch organisation does not provide a complete picture of the complexities of an Adèsian chaconne. For Adès, the repetition of the chaconne cycle provides an opportunity to superimpose independent layers of rhythmic patterns that heighten and enrich the pitch and harmonic musical transformations. The temporal implications of Adès’s chaconnes provide new insights into the processes that structure his form on the larger scale.
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