Audio extract courtesy of Onyx Classics. Philip Smith (baritone) and Malcolm Martineau (piano).
These three songs were originally composed when Britten was a young boy. In 1968, while in the process of reviving his early compositions Tit for Tat and the Five Walztes (the mis-spelling is Britten's original) for piano, Britten prepared them for publication. But it was not until 1985 that they finally appeared in print. 'Beware!', a setting of Longfellow, was written in 1922 when Britten was not even ten years old and was apparently a firm favourite with his family; 'O that I had ne’er been married', a setting of Robert Burns in Scots dialect, was composed at around the same time. The third song,'Epitaph', a setting of the first verse of Herbert Asquith’s poem ‘The Volunteer’, was composed slightly later, in 1926. As one might expect, these songs show little evidence of Britten’s mature style, but they are nonetheless characterful and attractive with a youthful directness of expression that is both charming and endearing.
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