Britten: On the Frontier: Incidental music

This page lists our only recording of On the Frontier: Incidental music, by Benjamin Britten (1913-76) on CD & download (MP3 & FLAC).

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Britten To America



Catalogue No:




Release date:

9th Dec 2013




78 minutes


CD (download also available)
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Britten To America


Roman Wall Blues

An American In England: Women of Britain

Britain to America: Where do we go from here?

On the Frontier: Incidental music

The Ascent of F6: Incidental music

Huw Watkins (piano), Samuel West (narrator), Andrew Kennedy (tenor), Jean Rigby (mezzo soprano) & Mary Carewe (mezzo soprano)

Ex Cathedra & Hallé, Sir Mark Elder & Jeffrey Skidmore



(also available to download from $10.00)

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What better way to mark the end of Britten's centenary than release some unrecorded works, the majority of which haven't been heard since they were performed in the 1940s? This is Britten with a difference - there are large sections of blues, jazz, a 'Tibetan' chant, a Bach chorale and even a ukulele number!

Britten made the hazardous journey from the United States back to England in the spring of 1942. Within a few weeks he had faced a Tribunal exempting him from military service as a conscientious objector. In his statement to the Tribunal he had said “I believe sincerely that I can help my fellow human beings best, by continuing the work I am best qualified to do”, and almost immediately he began giving concerts with Peter Pears in towns, rural villages and prisons. He also wrote three major scores for radio propaganda programmes: first Appointment, a BBC drama set in an internment camp in France: then An American in England, six programmes about wartime conditions in England produced by the BBC for live transmission in the USA by CBS; and lastly Britain to America, three programmes as part of a weekly transmission by NBC.

The last of these was completed by January 1943; in spite of the speed with which they were written, the music is elaborate and dramatic – the composer is clearly limbering up for Peter Grimes, whose libretto was evolving during this period.

Britten first met Dennis Brain who was playing as principal horn of the RAF Orchestra in An American in England. “I took every opportunity to write elaborate horn solos”, Britten said. A few months later he had composed the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings.

The British actor Samuel West has appeared in the movies Van Helsing, Iris, Notting Hill, Howard's End and Jane Eyre; he is frequently seen on stage for the Royal Shakespeare Company and also regularly heard in radio dramas.

Benjamin Britten: The Ascent of F6


Act I: Entr'actes for Mr. and Mrs. A.

Act I: Entr'acte and Gunn's Song: The chimney sweepers

Act I: Ransom: O brothers

Act I: Pantomime

Act I: Mother's Song: Michael, you shall be renowned

Act II: Prelude

Act II: Chant

Act II: Climbing Music

Act II: Gunn's Song: Some have tennis-elbow

Act II: Climbing Music

Act II: Cabaret Jazz Song: Forget the dead

Act II: Ransom: O senseless hurricanes

Act II: Funeral March and Chorus: No news

Act II: Blues: Stop all the clocks

Act II: Mother's Song with Chorus: Acts of injustice done

Act II: Chorale: Free now from indignation

Benjamin Britten: An American in England

I. London by Clipper (Programme 1)

II. Dover to London (Programme 2)

III. Ration Island (Programme 3)

IV. Women of Britain (Programme 4): London

V. Women of Britain (Programme 4): You walk down to a part of the city

VI. Women of Britain (Programme 4): Warren. To my dearly beloved boy

VII. Women of Britain (Programme 4): It's a beautiful August morning

VIII. Women of Britain (Programme 4): Within 50 yards

IX. Women of Britain (Programme 4): Your first factory

X. Women of Britain (Programme 4): After the last war

XI. Women of Britain (Programme 4): You set out for a training camp

Benjamin Britten: Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall: Roman Wall Blues

Benjamin Britten: On the Frontier


Ad libitum

Chorus: The clock on the wall gives an electric tick

Prisoner's Monologue: 'Industrialists, bankers, in comfortable chairs




Chorus: Marching Songs: Brightly the sun on our weapons is gleaming

Chorus: Ostnian National Anthem

Chorus: Waltz: The papers say there'll be war before long

Chorus: Journalists' Song: We fly to a cabinet crisis


Chorus: To build a city

Benjamin Britten: Britain to America

Britain to America: Where do we go from here?

Financial Times

4th January 2014

“Unexpected postscript to the composer’s centenary shows his versatility and completes the picture of his formative years”

Gramophone Magazine

March 2014

“All the participants are excellent, especially actor Samuel West playing a portrait gallery of characters, and NMC's production standards are impeccable, rolling together spoken word, choruses and instruments so that the seams never show. A disc of incidental music should not be as much fun.”

BBC Music Magazine

July 2014


“Jean Rigby admirably handles the dialogue and the songs of the ambiguous mother figure in F6...the blues moments such as 'Stop all the clocks', feel a bit stiff. Mary Carewe, meanwhile, finds freedom in 'Where do we go from here'...Plenty of food for thought and pleasure to be had here.”

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