Reflections February 2020
Britten’s Holy Sonnets
On the composer’s musical response to John Donne’s poetry.
In July 1945, some two months after the end of the Second World War in Europe, the violinist Yehudi Menuhin and the composer Benjamin Britten went on a concert tour in Germany to play for displaced people, many of whom were still living in the death camps and had nowhere to go. Menuhin had proposed to take the pianist Gerald Moore as his accompanist, but Britten, who (in Menuhin’s words) had been “casting about for some commitment to the human condition whose terrible depths had been so newly revealed,” asked if he might go instead, and Moore agreed to step aside.
They played to audiences two or three times a day for ten days in what Menuhin described as “the saddest ruins of the Third Reich.” In a letter to his partner, Peter Pears, Britten described how they traveled by car over bad roads and saw completely destroyed towns and “millions” of...
A Message from the Editors
Support our crucial work and join us in strengthening the bonds of civilization.
Your donation sustains our efforts to inspire joyous rediscoveries.