Eschewing the free dissonance and 12-tone techniques embraced by many composers in the first half of the 20th century, some composers continued to write in a style more closely related to their Romantic forebears, forging distinctive, personal voices based mainly on past musical traditions and forms. Samuel Barber and Benjamin Britten are two such composers. The music of both is marked by a passionate sensuality which never lapses into cheap sentimentality or vulgarity – an infallible sense of taste governs the placement of every note and phrase.
The first concert of OFAM’s Spring 2005 American Symponia festival will feature works for string orchestra and soloists by both composers, performed by the strings of the American Symphonia under the direction of music director and conductor James Paul. Britten’s Les Illuminations for voice and strings of 1939, a setting of ten verses by the French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud, serves as the centerpiece of the concert, performed by soprano Maria Jette. Also featured on the program is a performance of Barber’s final completed work, the Canzonetta for oboe and strings, a hauntingly beautiful work originally intended as the slow movement to an unfinished oboe concerto, and Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, an inventive musical tribute to his friend and mentor.