The best thing about anniversaries is the opportunity for discovery they provide. When we decided to honor Benjamin Britten’s centennial year with a survey of his works for string quartet, I was already an admirer of the great English composer. In the early 80’s, as an extra at the Metropolitan Opera, I had the unforgettable experience of playing a run of Peter Grimes with John Vickers in the title role. I was absolutely stunned by the intensity and pathos of Britten’s music (not to mention the amazing Canadian tenor’s searing rendition!). However, it was nearly 30 years before the ASQ embarked on our centennial project for San Francisco Performances.
Another revelation!: The string quartets of BB are each magnificent works, qualified, in my estimation, to be included on the honor roll of the greatest works for the string quartet from the 20th century. I am sure these works will remain in the ASQ repertoire for years to come.
Of the composers who are the mainstays of the operatic repertoire, it was only Mozart who was equally brilliant as a composer of instrumental chamber music…I thought. Now I judge Britten to be in that Pantheonic company.
Happy 100th birthday to a man who is very much still alive!
Birthday wishes also to our great friend and collaborating artist, the eminent violist Toby Appel!