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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Britten-Purcell realisations : connecting the past to the present through the voice of Peter Pears Hendsbee, Blaine Gregory

Abstract

This thesis will examine Benjamin Britten's realisations of several of Henry Purcell's songs taken from Orpheus Britannicus and Harmonia Sacra and explore how these realisations were created by practical performance considerations at the time of composition (realisation) and the role that tenor Peter Pears played in this process. The thesis will consider how these songs combine the thinking of both Purcell and Britten. It will also take into consideration how the tenor solo vocal technique changed between the time of Purcell and Britten and how Peter Pears' unique vocal ability synthesized these two approaches to technique. Although Purcell also wrote songs to be accompanied by larger instrumental forces, only the realisations and performance requirements of the continuo songs can be discussed in this document. The majority of songs Britten and Pears selected fall into this category. These songs will be analyzed using the following criteria: harmonic changes introduced by Britten, the manner in which the accompaniments are adapted or realised to meet the demands of the text, the specific editorial indications added by both Britten and Pears, the technical approach required for a tenor to perform these songs, and how these songs showcased the unique vocal, histrionic, and musical abilities of Peter Pears.

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