Britten at 100 – Simon Desbruslais premieres ‘Shakespeare Scenes’

British trumpeter Simon Desbruslais (Meet the Artist, 5 September 2012) will premiere ‘Shakespeare Scenes’, a new work by Robert Saxton at a concert given by the Orchestra of the Swan on Friday 24 May in Straford-upon-Avon.

Robert Saxton was given early composition advice and encouragement by Benjamin Britten, which is well documented in John Bridcut’s book Britten’s Children, and his new work is included in a programme which features the perenially popular Trumpet Voluntary by Jeremiah Clark and Britten’s Simple Symphony,

More about ‘Shakespeare Scenes’ (the composer’s programme note):

‘Shakespeare Scenes’, (2012-13) for solo trumpet and strings, was commissioned by Simon Desbruslais, to whom it is dedicated, with funding from the Britten/ears Foundation and the RVW Trust. The Orchestra of the Swan and their founder/music director, David Curtis, being the ensemble giving the premiere and making a commercial recording of the work, it seemed appropriate to pay tribute to Stratford-upon-Avon’s greatest son. There are five pieces/movements whose tonal centres outline the musical letters of Shakespeare’s name, so that the latter forms the structural basis of the whole.

The first piece, The Magic Wood, refers to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the strings representing the magic wood/the fairy kingdom, the trumpet Puck. In the second piece, Falstaff, the trumpet plays the role of Falstaff, the three linked episodes depicting the fat knight waking, the Gad’s Hill episode (with clashing swords) and, closes with the death of Falstaff. The third piece, The Storm on the Heath, casts the trumpet as the mad, raving King Lear, with a solo violin as his Fool/Jester. Masque, the fourth piece, rather than referring to a specific play, pays tribute to the Masque as a genre (there are masques in various Shakespeare plays, The Winter’s Tale and A Midsummer Night’s Dream being well-known examples); the upper strings and ‘basses represent the dancers/the courtly crowd, the trumpet playing a Pavane followed by a Galliard, with the cellos accompanying. Although there  are no quotations from Tudor/Jacobean music, the trumpet’s music makes reference to music of the period. In the closing piece, The Magic Island (The Tempest), we hear the chastened Prospero (trumpet) and the now-tamed Caliban (solo viola) reconciled against a background of sustained ‘ringing’ string music.

Further information and tickets here

The concert forms part of the Straford-upon-Avon Arts Festival, and will be preceded by a talk.