Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia was mostly written during the composer’s trip home to the UK after visiting the United States. This work had a long gestation as Britten had problems finding a suitable text. W H Auden was eventually asked and produced the poem in 1940. Britten’s setting was immediately recognised as a major addition to the choral repertory and has since become one of his most enduringly popular choral works.
The poem’s division into three ‘movements’ gives Britten his musical structure, and the provision of a refrain (‘Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions to all musicians, appear and inspire…’) gives a point of reference marking the end of each section, and of the work. The three ‘movements’ are completely different from each other. The work is extremely demanding of its performers.
Arnold Bax (photo) wrote his Symphony No. 7 in 1938 and 1939. he was originally going to dedicate the piece to conductor Basil Cameron but received a commission for the 1939 World Fair in New York and decided to use the symphony for this purpose. It was dedicated to “The People of America.”
We’ll hear both works on An English Pastorale, Sunday at 9 am.