Britten: Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

This page lists all recordings of Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21, by Benjamin Britten (1913-76) on CD & download (MP3 & FLAC). Generally, more recent releases are listed first, but with priority given to those that are in stock.

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Britten: Complete Works for Piano & Orchestra

Britten: Complete Works for Piano & Orchestra


Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Young Apollo, Op. 16


Read Katherine's exclusive interview with Steven Osborne about the Britten Piano Concerto (given shortly before his 2016 Proms performance of the work) here.

The three compositions which comprise Britten’s music for solo piano and orchestra constitute a unique, yet still little explored, part of his output. Here they are brought together in a stunning disc that pays tribute to the great artistry of all involved.

Steven Osborne’s performance of Britten’s Piano Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov at the 2007 BBC Proms redefined this often undervalued work in the ears of his listeners, imbuing it with hitherto unsuspected emotional and musical weight; playing the bravura passages with glittering assurance and joie de vivre. The same musicians have put down a benchmark recording here.

Diversions for left-hand piano and orchestra is a gem of a piece, which has rarely been recorded. It is highly virtuosic and incredibly well laid out for the left hand, at times almost in the form of études for piano and orchestra. Britten reaches unexpected levels of emotional intensity, most notably in the Chant and the powerful Allegro.

Seventy years or so after these works were first performed, their freshness and vitality speaks with the same musical truth that Imogen Holst divined in Britten’s work, when, writing to him after attending an early performance of Peter Grimes, she said: ‘You have given it to us at the very moment when it was most needed.’ In revisiting these unjustly neglected early works, and, through performances of matchless brilliance, discovering qualities that were missed or overlooked when they first appeared, we have good cause to echo her sentiments.

“It's the concerto...that is the real draw here, for Osborne's account has such deftness and wit that its only possible rival on disc is the performance by Sviatoslav Richter with Britten conducting.” Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 29th August 2008 ****

“The rapport between soloist and orchestra is often electrifying, especially in their fervent performance of Young Apollo, and the variations in Diversions ("Romance", "March", etc) are well differentiated.” Matthew Rye, The Telegraph, 6th September 2008

“Steven Osborne and Ilan Volkov launch into the Piano Concerto's opening 'Toccata' at a headlong pace… For all the remarkable velocity, the playing has weight and incisiveness too, and Osborne's way with the two central movements is equally sure. Diversions... a beautifully devised single-movement set of variations presents Britten's inventiveness at its most elegant. Osborne and the orchestra do this neglected jewel excellent justice.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2008 ****

“…throughout the disc, Osborne and his colleagues make the best possible case for pieces which have tended to be placed on the outer fringes of the Britten canon.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2008

“Osborne exults in Britten’s dazzlingly pianistic writing, and we get to hear the original 1938 version of the concerto’s third movement, a dazzlingly beautiful Recitative and Aria … a thrilling disc” Sunday Times

“Commissioned as a 24-year-old to compose and perform a piano concerto for the 1938 Proms, Britten played safe. None of the edginess he might have filched from Bartók or Stravinsky, no Bergian angst: instead, the models are Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Ravel, and in these terms he doesn't miss a trick, at least before the finale's rather perfunctory final gallop. Most of the piece takes a genuinely fresh look at pianistic conventions, and Steven Osborne yields nothing to the great Sviatoslav Richter in the punchiness and fine-tuned filigree of his playing. No skating over the surface here, with Ilan Volkov and the BBC Scottish SO adept at teasing out the music's symphonic subtext, as well as its piquant orchestral effects.
Britten replaced the original slow movement in 1945, possibly because it spent too much time in waltz-like regions already visited in the second movement. This disc adds it anyway, alongside two other scores for piano and orchestra.
Young Apollo (1939) was not heard for half a century after its premiere, perhaps discarded by Britten because its fanfare-like material was more effectively deployed in Les illuminations (also 1939). It's a quirky piece, difficult to programme, a euphorically unguarded response to Keats's vision of male beauty in Hyperion.
Diversions is on a much grander scale, its style making even clearer those debts to Mahler which Britten had allowed to surface now and again in the concerto. The multifarious challenges to the single-handed soloist create moments of strong emotional depth and, as throughout the disc, Osborne and his colleagues make the best possible case for pieces which have tended to be placed on the outer fringes of the Britten canon. The recordings, made in Glasgow's Henry Wood Hall, have ample depth of sonority and vividness of colour.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Stunning playing by Steven Osborne and the BBC Scottish Orchestra under Ilan Volkov: Britten’s early piano works sparkle with freshness and vitality.” Maurice Millward, Presto Classical, March 2014

GGramophone Awards 2009

Best of Category - Concerto

Hyperion - CDA67625

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$14.25

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Masterpieces for piano left hand

Masterpieces for piano left hand

dedicated to Paul Wittgenstein


Bartók:

4 Piano Pieces, BB 27, Sz. 22: Tanulmány Balkézre (Study for the Left Hand)

Britten:

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Prokofiev:

Piano Concerto No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 53

Ravel:

Piano Concerto in D major (for the left hand)

Scriabin:

Prelude, Op. 9 No. 1 in C sharp minor for the left hand


Paul Wittgenstein commissioned 17 scores which were all superbly remunerated. However, only one was considered an undisputed masterpiece… It remains an essential part of the literature, not only for permanently or temporarily one-armed artists, but also for all those who want to exercise their mind as much as their fingers. Who today would dare write for a single hand: after a century of practice, the left one is armed and ready to play!

Praga Digitals - PRD250315

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Les Musiciens et la Grande Guerre Vol. 10

Les Musiciens et la Grande Guerre Vol. 10

Concertos pour la Main Gauche


Britten:

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Korngold:

Piano Concerto in C sharp (for the left hand), Op.17


Nicolas Stavy (piano)

Orchestre National de Lille, Paul Polivnick

After World War I the well-known pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in action, commissioned a series of concertos from a number of composers, amongst them the famous concerto for the left hand by Ravel.

Two others, although rarely played, are twentieth-century masterpieces: a surprising (and exuberant!) concerto by Korngold (1923) and Diversions by Britten (1940), a piece comprising a theme with 11 variations, full of life and lyricism.

Continuo Classics Les Musiciens et la Grande Guerre - WW1710

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Britten 100: The Birthday Collection, Vol. 5

Britten 100: The Birthday Collection, Vol. 5


Britten:

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Eduard van Beinum

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Julius Katchen (piano)

London Symphony Orchestra, Benjamin Britten


Documents Britten 100 - The Birthday Collection - 299274

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Britten: Piano Concerto & Diversions

Britten: Piano Concerto & Diversions


Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Jacques Abram (piano)

Philharmonia Orchestra, Herbert Menges

Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20

Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra, Benjamin Britten

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Julius Katchen (piano)

London Symphony Orchestra, Benjamin Britten


Jacques Abram and Julius Katchen give first performances of Britten’s two works for piano and orchestra and the composer directs the Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra in an early recording of his Sinfonia da Requiem.

Heritage - HTGCD244

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Piano Concertos for the Left Hand

Piano Concertos for the Left Hand


Britten:

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Prokofiev:

Piano Concerto No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 53

Ravel:

Piano Concerto in D major (for the left hand)


Sony - G010001222779L

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Rattle conducts Britten

Rattle conducts Britten


Britten:

An American Overture

Ballad of Heroes, Op. 14

The Building of the House

Canadian Carnival Overture, Op. 19

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Young Apollo, Op. 16

Scottish Ballad, Op. 26

Suite on English Folk Tunes 'A Time there was', Op. 90

Quatre Chansons Françaises

Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20

Praise We Great Men

Occasional Overture, Op. 38


Warner Classics British Composers - 5739832

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Simon Rattle conducts Britten

Simon Rattle conducts Britten


Britten:

An American Overture

Ballad of Heroes, Op. 14

Robert Tear (tenor)

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Peter Donohoe (piano)

The Building of the House Overture

Praise We Great Men

Alison Hargan (soprano), Mary King (contralto), Robert Tear (tenor) & Willard White (bass)

Suite on English Folk Tunes 'A Time there was', Op. 90

Peter Walden (cor anglais)

Canadian Carnival Overture, Op. 19

Wesley Warren (trumpet)

Young Apollo, Op. 16

Peter Donohoe (piano), Felix Kok & Jeremy Ballard (violins), Peter Cole (viola), Michal Kaznowski (cello)

Quatre Chansons Françaises

Jill Gomez (soprano)

Scottish Ballad, Op. 26

Peter Donohoe & Philip Fowke (pianos)

Occasional Overture, Op. 38

Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20

Les illuminations, Op. 18

Berliner Philharmoniker

Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings, Op. 31

Ian Bostridge (tenor) & Radek Baborák (horn)

Berliner Philharmoniker

Nocturne, Op. 60 for tenor, obbligato instruments and strings

Ian Bostridge (tenor)

Berliner Philharmoniker

War Requiem, Op. 66

Elisabeth Söderström (soprano), Robert Tear (tenor), Sir Thomas Allen (baritone) & Mark Blatchly (chamber organ)

Boys of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, CBSO Chorus & City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Russian Funeral


On the face of it one would have thought that there was little in common between Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) and Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), two interesting facts prove otherwise.

Britten, born in Lowestoft in Suffolk on 22nd November (St. Cecilia’s Day), had already and studied with Frank Bridge by the time he went to Gresham’s School in Holt, Norfolk, in September 1928. The Master in charge of music on meeting him remarked “Oh, you’re the boy who likes Stravinsky!” Today that remark might be considered a compliment, at that time Stravinsky was reviled as THAT composer who had perpetrated the outrage called “The Rite of Spring” fifteen years earlier.

The funeral service for Stravinsky, who died on 6th April 1971 in New York, was held as he had requested in Venice nine days later and he was laid to rest near his friend and ballet impresario, Serge Diaghilev, on the Island of San Michele. Britten, too, had a great love for Venice as can be heard in his last opera based on Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”.

Both composers are also high on Sir Simon Rattle’s list of favourite composers. In 2003 he and his Berlin Philharmonic gave workshops and a performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to the city’s disadvantaged children and as a past Artistic Director of Britten’s beloved Aldeburgh Festival he has conducted many of his works including a number of those that had been found after the death of the composer.

The box of Stravinsky contains works from all parts of his musical life including six ballets; three major ones from his youth – The Firebird, showing the inspired palette for exotic colour learnt from his teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, Petrushka (in its revised version of 1947) and The Rite of Spring; two in his Neo-Classical style – Apollo and Pulcinella and extracts from Agon which shows the influence of his studies of serial technique as expounded by Anton Webern. There are also a number of his works that were inspired by jazz.

The box of Britten contains besides the three great song cycles (Les Illuminations, Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings and Nocturne) the “War Requiem”, “Sinfonia da Requiem”, the ever popular “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” and the most remarkable set of songs written in French when he was 15, “Quatre Chansons Françaises”.

Warner Classics Simon Rattle Edition - 2427432

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Britten conducts Britten vol. 4

Britten conducts Britten vol. 4


Britten:

Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Sviatoslav Richter (piano)

English Chamber Orchestra

Violin Concerto in D minor Op. 15

Mark Lubotsky (violin)

English Chamber Orchestra

Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 68

Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)

English Chamber Orchestra

Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20

New Philharmonia Orchestra

Cantata Misericordium, Op. 69

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)

London Symphony Orchestra

Prelude & Fugue for 18 strings, Op. 29

English Chamber Orchestra

Simple Symphony, Op. 4

English Chamber Orchestra

Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10

English Chamber Orchestra

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34

London Symphony Orchestra

The Prince of the Pagodas, Op. 57

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Julius Katchen (piano)

London Symphony Orchestra

Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Op. 22

Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano)

The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Op. 35

Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano)

Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, Op. 74

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Benjamin Britten (piano)

Winter Words, Op. 52

Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano)

Tit for Tat

John Shirley-Quirk (baritone), Benjamin Britten (piano)

Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings, Op. 31

Peter Pears (tenor), Barry Tuckwell (horn)

London Symphony Orchestra

Les illuminations, Op. 18

Peter Pears (tenor)

English Chamber Orchestra

Nocturne, Op. 60 for tenor, obbligato instruments and strings

Peter Pears (tenor), Alexander Murray (flute), Gervase de Peyer (clarinet), Roger Lord (cor anglais), Barry Tuckwell (horn), William Waterhouse (bassoon), Osian Ellis (harp), Denis Blyth (timpani)


Building a Library

First Choice - February 2010

Decca Collectors Edition Britten conducts Britten - 4756051

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Julius Katchen - Decca Recordings 1949-1968

Julius Katchen - Decca Recordings 1949-1968


Bartók:

8 Pieces from Mikrokosmos

Piano Concerto No. 3, BB 127, Sz. 119

Beethoven:

Diabelli Variations, Op. 120

Polonaise in C major, Op. 89

Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111

Brahms:

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5

Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100

Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108

Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24

Variations on a theme by Paganini in A minor, Op. 35

Britten:

Diversions for piano (left hand) and orchestra, Op. 21

Chopin:

Ballade No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47

Fantasia in F minor, Op. 49

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 'Marche funèbre'

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58

Impromptu No. 4 in C sharp minor, Op. 66 'Fantaisie-Impromptu'

Polonaise No. 6 in A flat major, Op. 53 'Héroïque'

Dohnányi:

Variations on a Nursery Tune, Op. 25

Franck, C:

Prélude, Choral et Fugue, M21

Gershwin:

Rhapsody in Blue

Mendelssohn:

Prelude & Fugue for piano in E minor, Op. 35 No. 1

Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, Op. 34 No. 2

(arr.Liszt)

Scherzo in E minor, Op. 16 No. 2

Rondo capriccioso in E major, Op. 14

Prokofiev:

Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26

Rachmaninov:

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43

Ravel:

Piano Concerto in D major (for the left hand)

Piano Concerto in G major

Rorem:

Piano Sonata No. 2

Schubert:

Fantasie in C major, D760 'Wanderer'

Schumann:

Toccata in C major, Op. 7

Carnaval, Op. 9

Études symphoniques, Op. 13


“Katchen's characteristic vitality, as well as his imagination, shines in Schumann's Carnaval, where the contrast of each number is sharply brought out...Katchen's spontaneous passion makes both the Schumann and Chopin items sound newly minted...one can't accuse Decca of lacking imagination in their choice of repertoire.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

Decca Original Masters - 4757221

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