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Autograph working manuscript of the music to the film "Instruments of the Orchestra" ["The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" op.34], signed on the title page ("Benjamin Britten")
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Britten, Benjamin., Autograph working manuscript of the music to the film "Instruments of the Orchestra" ["The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" op.34], signed on the title page ("Benjamin Britten")\nThe complete composition draft, in short score, including the final fugue, here originally titled by Britten "Orchestral Film", written in pencil, on up to twenty-four staves per page (on systems of up to five staves each), a working manuscript with many revisions, alterations and deletions, a few phrases on hand-drawn staves in the margins, with many instrumental and orchestral markings throughout, containing several differences from the final version, and with Britten's own autograph commentary for the original film, written between the staves and highlighted in orange crayon, introducing each part of the orchestra, also including sketches for the fugue and the timpani theme on an otherwise blank lower wrapper, this manuscript lacking the later numbering of the variations  29 pages, large folio (c.36 x 26cms), 24-stave paper, on 6 successive bifolia and a final single leaf, [December 1945], some minor browning and tears to margins
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notes

This is undoubtedly the most important Britten autograph manuscript ever to have been offered for sale at auction, and appears to be hitherto unrecorded.

It is a spectacular and revealing manuscript, showing the creation of one of Britten's best-known works.  It shows that Britten originally designed the piece as film-music, with the didactic purpose of illustrating the different instruments of the orchestra to school children, rather than as a symphonic "Variations and Fugue" for the concert hall.  Britten's manuscript contains his own commentary, different from that provided by Eric Crozier in the published score, and sometimes revealing of his approach to the instruments

"...Commentator (or conductor) Here you see before you, boys & girls, a full Symphony Orchestra--composed of about a [/nearly a] hundred (60-80?) musicians.  The fine noise of an orchestra, which you know so well is made by these musicians either blowing, scraping or banging the instruments which they hold in their hands.  Now, using a grand tune of our great English composer Henry Purcell, we will tell you the name of their instruments--let you hear their own particular sound...[and later before the fugue: ]...Having taken the orchestra to pieces, we must put it together again. So here is the fugue, with the instruments coming in one after another--starting as before with the piccolo & working right thro' to the percussion.  At the end you will here the grand tune on the Brass instruments..."

Britten composed this work in December 1945 for the Crown Film Unit, to accompany a film entitled "Instruments of the Orchestra", for distribution by the Ministry of Education.  During the 1930s Britten had composed many successful sound-tracks to films (some with texts by Auden), for the Crown Film Unit's predecessor, the GPO.  Britten began this composition draft in mid December 1945 and completed it at midnight on New Year's Eve.  The film was first shown in November 1946, with the commentary narrated by the conductor Malcolm Sargent.  Later it became one of Britten's best known orchestral works.  The composer reportedly preferred the title "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra", to the more formal "Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Henry Purcell" (the opening theme is a Hornpipe, taken from Purcell's incidental music to the play Abdelazar). Nevertheless, here he has written over the original title page "Orchestral Film" and replaced it with "[Variations on a theme of Purcell]...op.34...".

The manuscript is stunning evidence of Britten's brilliance as a composer, since, although evidently an early composing draft with many deletions and revisions, the music is almost complete, with most of the orchestration already indicated.  The complex fugue, climaxing with the return of Purcell's theme in the brass, is handled with amazing fluency, the short score notated on up to eight staves, reminding us that this was a young composer at the height of his powers. The manuscript was given by the composer to Enid Vandyk, who was the manager's secretary at the English Opera Group from its inception in 1947, and who later became Britten's assistant.

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The complete composition draft, in short score, including the final fugue, here originally titled by Britten "Orchestral Film", written in pencil, on up to twenty-four staves per page (on systems of up to five staves each), a working manuscript with many revisions, alterations and deletions, a few phrases on hand-drawn staves in the margins, with many instrumental and orchestral markings throughout, containing several differences from the final version, and with Britten's own autograph commentary for the original film, written between the staves and highlighted in orange crayon, introducing each part of the orchestra, also including sketches for the fugue and the timpani theme on an otherwise blank lower wrapper, this manuscript lacking the later numbering of the variations  29 pages, large folio (c.36 x 26cms), 24-stave paper, on 6 successive bifolia and a final single leaf, [December 1945], some minor browning and tears to margins


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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