Today's Classical Music Video

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pears and Britten Perform and Discuss Schubert's Wintereisse


For anyone interested in how great performers and composers do what they do this video is a precious document. The video was made in 1968 when Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten were at the height of their powers. They gave legendary performances together of the Schubert song cycles and showed an uncanny understanding of both the words and the music. In this video we see them at their home in Aldeburgh performing excerpts from Wintereisse and discussing some points of interest. Britten marvels at "how little there is on the page." In otherwords, the performers have an enormous challenge to get behind the notes and capture the spirit of the music. Significantly, Britten's own music has this quality too. He never used a single note more than he needed. His compositions are shockingly transparent and as in the case of Schubert demand performers who are able to do much more than play the notes. 

Britten was equally sparing in his conversation. He was a man of few words - he agreed to very few interviews - and those words were nearly always well-considered before they were spoken - as in this video.

For me Britten was one of the towering figures of Twentieth Century music both as a composer and a performer. And in Peter Pears he had a soulmate who was both a lifelong friend and a supreme interpreter of his music.

Paul E. Robinson

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