Go to BPF Website

Benjamin Britten’s

Song Catalogue

Canticle V The death of Saint Narcissus

Tenor, Harp

Britten’s heart surgery in 1973 resulted in the partial paralysis of his right hand, leaving him unable to play the piano properly. Thus, he set about creating a repertoire of works for Peter Pears to perform with the harpist Osian Ellis. As with Canticle IV: Journey of the Magi, the fifth and last canticle sets a poem by TS Eliot, one of the few poets whose work Britten felt able to read during his period of convalescence. The work is dedicated to the memory of William Plomer, librettist of Gloriana and the three Church Parables, whose death in September 1973 affected Britten greatly. Eliot’s visionary early poem, 'The Death of Saint Narcissus', with its sometimes obscure and complex imagery was a brave choice of text and the composer confessed that he did not fully understand what the poem was about. However, his response to it is sensitive and imaginative with an economy and refinement typical of his late style. Britten had long shown an innate understanding of and affection for the sonority of the harp (A Ceremony of Carols, the harp variation in The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra and the Suite for Harp are the most well-known examples) and his use of the instrument in the fifth canticle is as fresh and idiomatic as ever.

Text Author
T S Eliot
Year of Composition
Jul 1974
Length
7 minutes
Language
English
Vocal Range
Publisher
Boosey and Hawkes
Type
Individual
Voice Type
Tenor
Instrument
Harp
Buy Score

 Listen to the audio sample

Brittens Song Catalogue

You can browse Britten’s Song Catalogue in three different ways. If you know a key word or title from any song cycle, movement or individual song then use the Search too. If you are looking for a range of songs that fit your specific requirements then use the Refine tool where you can select from a number of options. If you just want to view what songs are available within different categories then use the Explore tool.

Which ever way you choose, we hope you find what you’re looking for.

icon-search

Search

Text based keyword search for matching titles darr

icon-refine

Refine

Results based on your selected options darr

icon-explore

Explore

View every available song, indexed into categories darr