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Britten's Five Flower Songs, Op. 47, Arranged for Orchestra

Britten's Five Flower Songs, Op. 47, Arranged for Orchestra

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Enid Hutchins. Originally submitted for Orchestration at Trinity College, Dublin, with lecturer Linda Buckley in the category of Ancient & Classical Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Enid Hutchins. Originally submitted for Orchestration at Trinity College, Dublin, with lecturer Linda Buckley in the category of Ancient & Classical Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
 Instrumentation Assignment 2 of 2Britten’s Five Flower Songs Op. 47Arranged for OrchestraEnid HutchinsJS TSM23
rd
March 2011
 
2
 Report
The works I chose to orchestrate are from Benjamin Britten’s
 Five Flower Songs,
Opus 47, for mixed chorus. The song cycle was written in 1951 and is made up of five stylistically contrasting pieces. I have orchestrated the second and third songs of the collection, ‘The Succession of the Four Sweet Months,’ and ‘Marsh Flowers.’
‘The Succession of the Four Sweet Months’
The text for this piece is from a poem by Robert Herrick, a 17
th
century English poet.It is based on the months April, May, June and July. Each month is represented bysoprano, alto, tenor and bass respectively. The months are introduced one after another and each one is said to be better than the last until the bass introduces July,the greatest month of all. This choral piece builds up from a solo soprano melody toa polyphonic blend of interweaving independent lines sung by each part. The partsare almost constantly contrapuntal, at times canon-like, and rarely come together tocreate a homophonic texture. The music continues to grow until the climactic 6/3chord of bar twenty-nine. The music then disappears into a resolving coda.The orchestration of this piece explores the sense of expansion that is evidentin the choral version. The overall timbre grows gradually from one instrument. Eachvoice entry brings in new instruments with contrasting registers and timbres until the piece reaches its climax. The opening melody is assigned to the flute. This melodyintroduces the principal motif and every other entry is a variation of that originalfigure. The clarinet and viola play the alto entry as both have a smooth timbre andstrong register for that line. At the point of entry of the alto line in bar five the oboeaccompanies the flute, which would be unable to carry sound over the rest of theorchestra. They are doubled at the octave. In the middle of the piece when there were
 
3
more entries and more melodies, the alto line could not be heard by clarinet and violaalone and was therefore doubled by the deep sonority of bass clarinet an octavelower. This carried the line over the other instruments. The trumpet plays the tenor entry and at this point the first violins accompany the oboe to create a softer sound.The trumpet is the only part needed to carry the tenor line. The overall timbre is now beginning to grow outwards with octave doubling in the woodwinds, theaccompaniment of strings and the introduction of the brass.The harp and pitched percussion function to play melodic figures that shouldstand out from the dense texture of the rest of the orchestra. For example in bar twenty the crotales and celesta play the soprano line which I wished to be heard in asection containing many other melodies that are equal in importance. Their sound pierces through the textural backdrop of the rest of the instruments. The bell-likeresonance of pitched percussion contrasts against the breathy texture that thewoodwind, brass and strings create when combined. The bass voice is introduced in bar fifteen by tuba and cello. These are doubled by the piccolo from bar twenty-threeas this is the climax of the song before it pauses on the 6/3 chord. I changed thedotted minim chord to a minim followed by a crotchet rest to emphasise the pause between that and the final four bars. The final bars are a completely new textural ideain addition to being the ending of the entire song. It was important that thishomophonic section is kept separate from the rest of the piece.
‘Marsh Flowers’
‘Marsh Flowers’ is the third song of the cycle. It is one of the most interesting andintricate of the five. The text is a poem by George Crabbe, an English Victorian poetadmired by Britten. The poem talks about the beauty of flowers as they emerge fromthe ugliness of their swamp environment. This is probably the most radical of the

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