In 1945 the British ministry of education approached Benjamin Britten
about the possiblity of scoring a documentary film that would demonstrate
for school children the instrumensts of the orchestra. The composer wrote
a set of variations based on a theme written 250 years earlier by another
Englishman, Henry Purcell. The entire orchestra plays the theme at the
beginning, then the four main sections, then the variations by each
instrument. Britten then reassembles the work with a brilliant fuguelike
finale. The film was titled 'Instruments of The Orchestra' and was widely
shown in England. It is sometimes performed with a narration.
The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34, is a musical composition by Benjamin Britten in 1946 with a subtitle "Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell". It was originally commissioned for an educational documentary film called The Instruments of the Orchestra, directed by Muir Mathieson and featuring the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent. The work is one of the best-known pieces by the composer, and is one of the three popularly used scores in children's music education, together with Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals and Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.
This work, in composer's own words, is affectionately inscribed to the children of John and Jean Maud: Humphrey, Pamela, Caroline and Virginia, for their edification and entertainment.
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh, OM CH (22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976) was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. Showing prodigious talent from an early age – he composed his Quatre Chansons françaises for soprano and orchestra at the age of fourteen – he first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945 he leapt to international fame, and for the next fifteen years he devoted much of his compositional attention to writing operas, several of which now appear regularly on international stages. Britten's interests as a composer were wide-ranging; he produced important music in such varied genres as orchestral, choral, solo vocal (much of it written for the tenor Peter Pears), chamber and instrumental, as well as film music. He also took a great interest in writing music for children and amateur performers, and was considered a fine pianist and conductor.
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