Since his death, Benjamin Britten’s scores and papers have been preserved at the Britten-Pears Library at Aldeburgh in Suffolk. Whilst many of his letters are now published and his compositions and sketches have been collated and research on them is continuing, Britten’s performance material has only recently been catalogued. This AHRC-funded collaborative project between the Britten-Pears Foundation and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is the first research project to be focused exclusively on this material.
The Mozart scores in the Britten-Pears Library reveal the detailed and often revelatory annotations that Britten prepared as both a performer and conductor. In particular, his annotations in certain works of Mozart portray a profound insight into questions of interpretation. This material thus opens a window onto the processes of preparing an interpretation (instructive to performers, conductors and composers), and allows comparative study of the relationship between the conductor’s intentions as evidenced by the scores, and the actual performances as evidenced by extant recordings.
The first phase of the project included a comprehensive survey of the available material. Where it is possible to correlate scores with specific recordings, a detailed picture of the relationship between the conductor’s intentions and the eventual realisation can also be discovered. Critical reception of recordings and live performances will provide a measure of the cultural significance and reception of Britten’s interpretations, whilst recollections of musicians who performed at such events cast further light on the extent, for instance, that Britten insisted on the execution of his own annotations.
It is hoped that this research will help to situate Britten’s work as a performer in the wider context of his time and cultural milieu and thereby contribute to an evaluation of his contribution in this field. It will also develop innovative methodological online tools suitable for further analysis of performance annotations, in Britten’s own compositions and in the scores of other conductors.