For soprano, contralto, tenor and bass solos, chorus and orchestra, op. 62
Composition date: Sep 1959
Date notes

This date refers to the completion of the full score. The 1973 catalogue of Britten's works (published by Boosey & Hawkes) gives the date of the work as 'March 1959', which is probably the completion date of the composition draft (which is undated). The composer announced the work's completion in a letter to George Malcolm dated August 24 1959, but the full score is annotated 'Sept 1959'. Britten had accepted the commission on 30 October 1958.

First performance: 1 Jul 1960 >>
Type of performance: Concert performance
Location: Basler Kongresshalle, Basel
Performance details:

Agnes Giebel sop, Elsa Cavelti contr, Peter Pears ten, Heinz Rehfuss bass, Basler Kammerchor, Sterk'scher Privatchor, Basler Kammerorchester, Paul Sacher cond

Genre: Choral
Text: Compiled from the charter of the University, and from older orations in praise of Basle, by Bernhard Wyss (in Latin)
Performing forces:

Orchestra: 2 fl (II=picc), 2 ob, 2 cl in B flat, 2 bn - 4 hn, 2 tpt in C, 3 trbn, tuba - timp, 4 perc (trgl, tamburo militare, tamb, cymb, Chinese block, bd, t-t, xyl, glock, bells in C) - 2 harps (II ad lib), pf (=cel ad lib) - str

Duration: 21'

By the University of Basel.

Dedication: 'Composuit Universitati Basiliensi, sollemnia saecularia quinta celebranti, dedicavit Benjamin Britten MCMLX'


  • Pars I >>

    1 Corale (sop, contr, ten, bass, SATB, orch)

    2 Alla rovesco (SATB, orch)

    3 Recitativo (ten, pf)

    4 Arioso (bass, orch)

    5 Duettino (sop, contr, orch)

    6 Recitativo (ten, pf)

    7 Scherzo (sop, contr, ten, bass, SATB, orch)

  • Pars II >>

    8 Tema seriale con fuga (SATB, orch)

    9 Soli e duetto (contr, bass, orch)

    10 Arioso con canto popolare (sop, TB, orch)

    11 Recitativo (ten, pf)

    12 Canone ed istinato (sop, contr, ten, bass, SATB, orch)

    13 Corale con canto (sop, contr, ten, bass, SATB, orch)

    The 'Tema seriale' was used in the concerto for orchestra and Alba for organ (a version of the first movement of the concerto) by Richard Rodney Bennett; both were composed in 1973 and were dedicated to Britten. The same theme was used as the basis of a collaborative work Reflections on a theme of Benjamin britten for flute, bassoon, viola and harp, composed in 1963 as a fiftieth birthday tribute by Richard Rodney Bennett, Nicholas Maw and Malcolm Williamson.