“Bad Boys” of Music: Gesualdo, Poulenc and Britten

Sunday 22nd September 2013 at 4:00 PM
Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street

A free, hour-long concert of works by three composers who pushed the boundaries, both musically and in their personal lives.  This concert is part of the London Open House weekend, and we are excited to perform in the beautiful church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, in the heart of Soho.

Advance reservations or tickets are not required for this concert.


Poulenc: Four Lenten Motets

  • Timor et tremor
  • Vinea mea electa
  • Tenebrae factae sunt
  • Tristis est anima mea

Gesualdo: Three Tenebrae Responses 

  • Tristis est anima mea
  • Plange quasi virgo
  • O vos omnes

Britten: From A.M.D.G.

  • Jesu that dost in Mary dwell
  • In the Gardens of God

Britten: Rejoice in the Lamb

Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613), Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) and Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) are linked this year by important anniversaries, but also certain musical affinities. Each wrote choral works that are instantly recognizable by their style and sound world, and that use virtuosity always for deeply expressive purposes.

There’s also a sense in which they could be numbered among the “Bad Boys of Music”. Gesualdo was indisputably notorious: he brutally murdered his wife and her lover. Poulenc and Britten never approached such extremes, yet each were somewhat at odds with the mainstream of their culture, no matter how feted they were by the establishment in their own lifetimes. This was not only because they were more or less openly gay in an age when this was still illegal. Poulenc was seduced by the sounds of the jazz age and never quite let them go from even his most serious music; yet he was also the prodigal who returned to the Roman Catholic church at a time when it was not fashionable to do so.

Britten, by contrast, was happy to compose sacred music to order, but he had an ambivalent attitude towards the pieties and certainties of faith that grew in part from his deep pacifism and his identification with the outsider (“For the officers of the peace are at variance with me, and the watchman strikes me with his staff,” as the lines go in Rejoice in the Lamb).

We look forward to welcoming you to the historic church of Our Lady in Soho, for a concert that will be as ravishing to listen to as it is thrilling to sing! 


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