What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

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Adrian Allan
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Adrian Allan » Sat Aug 12, 2017 8:58 am

PaulHardy wrote:
Sat Aug 12, 2017 7:26 am
Sean Shibe wrote:
Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:35 am
Curiously enough in a recent review a prominent critic made clear that he considers it doubtful that Nocturnal is a masterpiece: https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/dre ... olo-guitar
Yes but it comes the closest of the pieces on the disc, according to him. And it's still among the very best we have.

Adrian I'm sorry I have to concur with Mr Yeoman and place the the Nocturnal above the Walton Bagatelles, even though I adore them.
Walton did a marvellous job producing something so engaging, so interesting and yet so avowedly diatonic in 1971. But the darkness and introspection of the Britten is special in a repertoire heavily laden with sun-soaked Mediterranean charmers or gently bittersweet bonbons. Nothing wrong with those in moderation but a wholr evening of phrygian modes, rasguedos and dramatic scale runs can start to drag imho.

And I know many others will disagree so I'll acknowledge their right to a different view now in a (doomed) attempt to head them off. 😁
Fair enough, but I would hardly call the first and fifth Bagatelles Spanish sounding or Mediterranean. I have always likened the last bagatelle to the furioso primitivism in Villa-Lobos' last Etude, and I'm not sure what sort of musical language is used in the first (simply saying jazz inflected would be an oversimplified cliche). I think that a set of works with the title "bagatelles" (which means musical bonbons, as you say) is always going to be viewed lower down the pecking order from an extended work with musical unity. However, it is probably a pointless exercise to compare the two, other than to say that for the average listener, the Bagatelles are more accessible.

As a further point, I have found a video on Youtube where people are able to follow the score of Nocturnal. I will do this now and give it another listen.
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Sean Eric Howard
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Sean Eric Howard » Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:20 am

I played the Nocturnal years ago in a recital at Kentucky Wesleyan College in 1992. It went over like the proverbial lead balloon, which disappointed me because I played it well after months and months of meticulous preparation. I believe it to be one of the cornerstones of the guitar literature, but, at least around here, people would much rather listen to pieces far more similar to the various pop genres they're used to, or at least that's my impression.
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PaulHardy
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by PaulHardy » Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:49 am

Yes the comment about Spanishism wasn't aimed at the Walton, merely the other 80-90% of recital fare. The Walton doesn't align with this style but as you allude isn't a complete break from it either.

Do I derect a hint of special pleading? It was you who brought up the Walton initially when you ranked it a masterpiece which was more accessible than Nocturnal, but now you say it's pointless to compare the two -except to reassert your opinion about their relative accessibility

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Adrian Allan
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Adrian Allan » Sat Aug 12, 2017 12:12 pm

PaulHardy wrote:
Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:49 am
Yes the comment about Spanishism wasn't aimed at the Walton, merely the other 80-90% of recital fare. The Walton doesn't align with this style but as you allude isn't a complete break from it either.

Do I derect a hint of special pleading? It was you who brought up the Walton initially when you ranked it a masterpiece which was more accessible than Nocturnal, but now you say it's pointless to compare the two -except to reassert your opinion about their relative accessibility
Not really, because ultimately these things can never be ranked. I only note that the Bagatelles have more potential to reach out to more listeners, which some people say is not the aim of art music, anyway. At the end of the day, there is a huge element of personal choice - for my taste, the Britten maintains the same edgy, dark and off key (but not atonal) tonality for most of its length. I prefer more tonal variety and change of moods, but some would assert that the variety is achieved through the different guitar techniques and voicings, etc. To echo your point, for me, too much modern music offers the same sort of tonal palette, just as too much guitar repertoire alludes too much to the Spanish tradition.
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by John Stone » Sun Aug 13, 2017 1:09 am

I think it's a magnificent piece by one of the 20th century's great composers. I suspect that a good number people who don't like the Nocturnal prefer music that fits more in the traditional tonal box. I love that box myself, but like to get out of it fairly often as it's pretty predictable.
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Sun Aug 13, 2017 2:11 am

Having performed the Nocturnal on every recital I gave 2012 and 2016, I feel personally it's an amazing work. There's so much substance and nuance to this piece, it's almost mind boggling. I think many reasons why either 1) performers cannot connect the piece to the audience or 2) listeners have difficultly understanding the piece has to do with the general public's appreciation for something avant guard. To this end, I feel that the performance of this piece needs to be done after a well thought out and delivered statement about the piece from the perform. The performer needs to connect to this piece and needs to communicate that connection to the audience verbally. They need to explain what they will hear and what it means to the performer, and the symbolism needs to be given. When I performed this piece, sure some people didn't enjoy it.

However I'd say at almost every concert someone would approach me afterwards and tell me how they felt it was the best piece on the program (this was a program with Bach's 1st Cello Suite and Tedesco's Capriccio Diabolico). They also made it a point to let me know that it was my explanation of the piece beforehand which allowed them to connect with the music.
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by John Kemp » Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:36 am

I totally agree with Tom Poore's comment above. I think it was one of my daughter's music teachers who said: "good, you can play the notes, now play the music!" I think this piece is one to which this advice applies. It is not as techically difficult as, say the sonatas by Brower or Ginastera, but it needs the musicality of, for example, Sean Shibe to do it justice.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Adrian Allan » Mon Aug 14, 2017 10:13 am

Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Sun Aug 13, 2017 2:11 am
Having performed the Nocturnal on every recital I gave 2012 and 2016, I feel personally it's an amazing work. There's so much substance and nuance to this piece, it's almost mind boggling. I think many reasons why either 1) performers cannot connect the piece to the audience or 2) listeners have difficultly understanding the piece has to do with the general public's appreciation for something avant guard. To this end, I feel that the performance of this piece needs to be done after a well thought out and delivered statement about the piece from the perform. The performer needs to connect to this piece and needs to communicate that connection to the audience verbally. They need to explain what they will hear and what it means to the performer, and the symbolism needs to be given. When I performed this piece, sure some people didn't enjoy it.

However I'd say at almost every concert someone would approach me afterwards and tell me how they felt it was the best piece on the program (this was a program with Bach's 1st Cello Suite and Tedesco's Capriccio Diabolico). They also made it a point to let me know that it was my explanation of the piece beforehand which allowed them to connect with the music.
I think that the verbal explanation is a fine idea - probably better than programme notes, if the aim is to make the music approachable. I have sat too many times in a guitar concert and thought "what on earth was that all about?", because by its very nature, modernist music does not offer immediate musical clues on first hearing. BTW I would say that Avant-Garde art is at the extreme end of modernism, and compared to some, The Nocturnal is quite conservative, having a clear structure and form, its roots in tonal music, and regular obedience to a pulse.
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Portland Bill
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Portland Bill » Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:19 pm

I genuinely feel sorry for people that can't appreciate Britten's music, although I appreciate some of his works are difficult The Nocturnal isn't one of them.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Adrian Allan » Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:33 pm

Portland Bill wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:19 pm
I genuinely feel sorry for people that can't appreciate Britten's music, although I appreciate some of his works are difficult The Nocturnal isn't one of them.
Define "difficult".
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:41 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 10:13 am
I have sat too many times in a guitar concert and thought "what on earth was that all about?", because by its very nature, modernist music does not offer immediate musical clues on first hearing.
To me that has more to do with the lack of familiarity of that style/language of the genre, than it does with the composition. I do not expect everyone to a concert of mine to be fully knowledgable, or even familiar with every piece I'm performing - which is why communicating with the audience and helping them to understand the beauty that you, the performer, see in a piece is especially important. With a piece like the Nocturnal a narrative, spoken directly to the audience will engage them and help them understand what they hear.
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Adrian Allan
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Adrian Allan » Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:46 pm

Nick Cutroneo wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:41 pm
Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 10:13 am
I have sat too many times in a guitar concert and thought "what on earth was that all about?", because by its very nature, modernist music does not offer immediate musical clues on first hearing.
To me that has more to do with the lack of familiarity of that style/language of the genre, than it does with the composition. I do not expect everyone to a concert of mine to be fully knowledgable, or even familiar with every piece I'm performing - which is why communicating with the audience and helping them to understand the beauty that you, the performer, see in a piece is especially important. With a piece like the Nocturnal a narrative, spoken directly to the audience will engage them and help them understand what they hear.
Fair enough, but at my age (and 35 years of playing) I'm unlikely to ever be a convert.
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Portland Bill
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Portland Bill » Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:51 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:33 pm
Portland Bill wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:19 pm
I genuinely feel sorry for people that can't appreciate Britten's music, although I appreciate some of his works are difficult The Nocturnal isn't one of them.
Define "difficult".
If you are referring to Britten's compositions then the fact that it's only 15 minutes long puts in to the easier category.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Adrian Allan » Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:53 pm

Portland Bill wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:51 pm
Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:33 pm
Portland Bill wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:19 pm
I genuinely feel sorry for people that can't appreciate Britten's music, although I appreciate some of his works are difficult The Nocturnal isn't one of them.
Define "difficult".
If you are referring to Britten's compositions then the fact that it's only 15 minutes long puts in to the easier category.
Ok, but I thought that length might not be the only consideration.
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Portland Bill
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Re: What is your opinion of Britten's Nocturnal?

Post by Portland Bill » Mon Aug 14, 2017 7:08 pm

Britten does endings well and it's here that you will find him at his most accessible, The Nocturnal isn't the only piece that gets tuneful at the end.

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