Benjamin Britten: "Hymn to St. Cecilia", Op.27 - An Analysis

Little, Jonathan D. (1987) Benjamin Britten: "Hymn to St. Cecilia", Op.27 - An Analysis. Undergraduate thesis, University of Melbourne.

Text (Benjamin Brittten, Op.27 - An Analysis - J.D.Little 1987)
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A Study of Britten's setting of W. H. Auden's poem, "Anthem for St. Cecilia's Day"

[Fourth-Year B.Mus.(Hons.) Musicology Thesis]


Chapter 1 - A Background to Auden's poem and Britten's setting
Chapter 2 - An analysis of Auden's "Anthem"
Chapter 3 - Britten's formal construction
Chapter 4 - Harmonic and rhythmic elements in Britten's "Hymn"
Chapter 5 - Britten's aims


There are two reasons for examining Britten's "Hymn to St. Cecilia", op.27: firstly, because it is a tremendously beautiful and moving work despite its apparent simplicity; secondly, and in consequence, to discover how Britten set to music such a vivid and profoundly philosophical text. This thesis is in essence a study of compositional method.

Auden's poem itself is complex both in terms of its construction and its meaning, and it is essential to try to look within the poem on a technical level and also to discover any personal associations it may have had for Auden, beyond his task of writing about the patron saint of music. These may be characterised as
(1): Auden and his relationship with and understanding of Britten; and
(2): Auden and religion. The first and second chapters in particular address these issues.

The third chapter attempts to examine Britten's formal construction on an overall and detailed level, with direct relation to Auden's own construction, allowing for differences of artistic medium of course. The next chapter views elements of Britten's rhythmic and harmonic construction, and it has been necessary to treat these two musical parameters together as they are inextricable.

Much more detail could be drawn out than is presented here. There are no detailed analyses of either the poem or the music in any other reference work to this date, and therefore the author must take full responsibility for the writing presented within. Certain subjective comments must be part and parcel of an analysis of a work of art, as must the technical aspects. Hopefully they will at least stimulate further thought on the musical setting, and the philosophy it attempts to reflect.

- "a useful critical guide to the work" - Dr. Craig Ayrey, Goldmiths College, University of London

- "there is no published study of this kind, to my knowledge, and no published study of the music that attempts as detailed a consideration of the relationship between text and music as this" - Dr. Christopher Mark, University of Surrey

Item Type: Thesis (Undergraduate)
Additional Information: [The copyright material in Appendix A is omitted from the thesis here.]
Uncontrolled Keywords: Benjamin Britten, W. H. Auden, Hymn to St. Cecilia, Anthem for St. Cecilia's Day, Song for St. Cecilia
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Divisions: Departments > Music
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Jonathan Little
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2017 10:32
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2017 10:37

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