Volume 1, British Isles
Volume 2, France
Volume 3, British Isles
Volume 4, Moore’s Irish
Claudio Marino Moretti
Benjamin Britten’s interest in the English folklore melodies began around the ’40s, during a long stay in the United States. Far from his homeland, he seemed to wish to rediscover his roots through a proper rework of some melodies linked to the English tradition. Such ‘rebuilt songs’ soon represented a solid and appreciated concert repertoire very adapt to be included in the recital program often organized by Britten together with her partner aand singer Peter Pears.
The first volume of the collection Folk Song Arrangements was then written: British Isles. During his productive career, including many titles of vocal music chamber, the composer kept researching popular songs, exploring the French, Irish and Scottish repertoire through seven volumes of songs: British Isles, France, British Isles, Moore’s Irish, British Isles, England and Eight Folk Songs Arrangements. (The first five volumes are for piano and voice, while the last two are for guitar with voice and harp with voice).
Besides the timeless fascination of popular music, with all its cultural implications, one of the most interesting aspects of Britten’s Folk Songs is the composer’s ability to create a cohexistence of a clear melodic dimension very recognizable and written in the collective memory, and his own compositional style, crafting a harmonic structure complex to grasp at times. The traditional themes are represented through a very deep process of elaoration. Britten does not ever spoil the melodic line led by the voice, following a quite peculiar perspective: the composer considers the original materials as if they were his works in the first place. Though unaltered, such themes are treated as a part of the compositional process ex novo, and its harmonic structure – dedicated to piano and to the accompanying instrument – is rebuilt from scratch and without any stylistic limit. Therefore, it is not correct to speak of a ‘transcription’; Britten rewrites popular song, where an original composition transforms every popular melody into an absolute protagonist as its folk inspirational element.