Britten – Serenata per tenore, corno e archi

Benjamin Britten – Serenata per tenore, corno e archi Op. 31

Composta tra i mesi di marzo e aprile 1943, quando Britten aveva 29 anni, la Serenata Opus 31 è formata da un ciclo di sei canzoni per tenore, accompagnato da un corno solista e da una piccola orchestra d’archi; i testi provengono da poesie di poeti britannici, tra cui un anonimo del XV secolo, ed hanno in comune il tema della notte, calma e serena o sinistra e angosciante. Dedicata al suo compagno, il famoso tenore Peter Pears, la Serenata viene eseguita per la prima volta il 15 ottobre 1943 alla Wigmore Hall di Londra con Dennis Brain al corno.
Britten adegua la scrittura vocale alle capacità di uno dei più grandi tenori inglesi del XX secolo, alla voce infatti richiede freschezza e agilità per mantenere sempre comprensibile il testo. Le sei canzoni sono incorniciate da un prologo e da un epilogo, entrambi eseguiti solo dal corno utilizzando esclusivamente le armoniche naturali. Nell’epilogo, poi, il suono del corno deve giungere da lontano, pertanto l’ultima canzone non include una parte per lo strumento, favorendo in questo modo il cornista che deve posizionarsi fuori dal palcoscenico.
La Serenata si articola nei seguenti otto movimenti:

  • Prologo; corno.
  • Pastorale; quattro strofe tratte da “The Evening Quatrains” di Charles Cotton (1630-1687).
  • Notturno; “Blow, Bugle, Blow”, poesia di Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892).
  • Elegia; “The Sick Rose” di William Blake (1757-1827).
  • Nenia; “Lyke Wake Dirge” di anonimo del XV secolo.
  • Inno; dalla satira Cynthia’s Revels di Ben Jonson (1572-1637).
  • Sonetto; da John Keats (1795-1821).
  • Epilogo; ripresa del Prologo, corno fuori scena.


Mirko Guadagnini, tenore
Andrea Liani, corno
FVG mitteleuropea orchestra, dir. Eddi De Nadai

1. Prologue (solo horn)

2. Pastoral (Charles Cotton)
The day’s grown old; the fainting sun
Has but a little way to run,
And yet his steeds, with all his skill,
Scarce lug the chariot down the hill.
The shadows now so long do grow,
That brambles like tall cedars show;
Mole hills seem mountains, and the ant
Appears a monstrous elephant.
A very little, little flock
Shades thrice the ground that it would stock;
Whilst the small stripling following them
Appears a mighty Polypheme.
And now on benches all are sat,
In the cool air to sit and chat,
Till Phoebus, dipping in the west,
Shall lead the world the way to rest.

3. Nocturne (Lord Alfred Tennyson)
The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory:
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Bugle blow; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.
O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river:Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

4. Elegy (William Blake)
O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

5. Dirge (Anonimo XV sec.)
This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle‐lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.
When thou from hence away art past,
Every nighte and alle,
To Whinny‐muir thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.
If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
Every nighte and alle,
Sit thee down and put them on;
And Christe receive thy saule.
If hosen and shoon thou ne’er gav’st nane
Every nighte and alle,
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.
From Whinny‐muir when thou may’st pass,
Every nighte and alle,
To Brig o’ Dread thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.
From Brig o’ Dread when thou may’st pass,
Every nighte and alle,
To Purgatory fire thou com’st at last;
And Christe receive thy saule.
If ever thou gavest meat or drink,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire sall never make thee shrink;
And Christe receive thy saule.If meat or drink thou ne’er gav’st nane,
Every nighte and alle,
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane;
And Christe receive thy saule.
This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle‐lighte,
And Christe receive thy saule.

6. Hymn (Ben Jonson)
Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep:
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright.
Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia’s shining orb was made
Heav’n to clear when day did close:
Bless us then with wishèd sight,
Goddess excellently bright.
Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short so-ever:
Thou that mak’st a day of night,
Goddess excellently bright.

7. Sonnet (John Keats)
O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom‐pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes.
Or wait the “Amen” ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passèd day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,
Save me from curious conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oilèd wards,And seal the hushèd casket of my Soul.

8. Epilogue (solo horn – off stage)

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