Edith Sitwell (E)
Britten’s composed the third of his five Canticles, Still falls the Rain, a setting of a poem by Edith Sitwell, in 1955. Sitwell, who attended the first performance, was overwhelmed by the work and her response led her to be invited to the 1956 Aldeburgh Festival where it was arranged that she and Britten would collaborate on a programme of her poetry to include further settings specially written for the occasion by Britten. For the event, which was entitled The Heart of the Matter, Britten composed extra music to surround and complement Canticle III which formed the centrepiece of the presentation: a Prologue, ‘Where are the seeds of the Universal Fire’, a song entitled ‘We are the darkness in the heat of the day’ and an Epilogue, ‘So, out of the dark’, along with a fanfare for solo horn to frame the entire sequence. It is not known why the work received no further performances during Britten’s lifetime - possibly the composer viewed it purely as an occasional piece - but Peter Pears revived it (in a slightly abridged version) for a concert given at the Wigmore Hall in 1983 and the additional settings were subsequently published in 1994. These extra settings share a similar mood and atmosphere to Still falls the Rain and thus form a highly effective context for it. Britten returned to Sitwell’s poetry for Praise We Great Men, the cantata which remained sadly unfinished at the time of death in December 1976.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Britten-Pears Library