Tenor, Small orchestra
Composed as a companion piece to the earlier Serenade, the Nocturne revisits the nocturnal world of that work, though here the tenor solo is joined by seven solo instruments, each imparting a different tone colour to each setting. The full forces combine only in the final song, a lyrical setting of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 43, ‘When most I wink’. As he does in Serenade, Britten makes use of the English poetic tradition and sets verse by Tennyson, Keats and Shakespeare among others. But unlike the earlier work the piece is through-composed and there are no breaks as such between the numbers. Instead, a rocking, dreamlike string motif links each movement together.
Audio extracts courtesy of Decca Classics. Peter Pears (tenor); Barry Tuckwell (horn); William Waterhouse (bassoon); Osian Ellis (harp); Denis Blyth (timpani); Roger Lord (cor anglais); Alexander Murray (flute); Gervase de Peyer (clarinet); strings of the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Britten (1960).
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