Prelude to Appreciation

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The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is an orchestra composition written in 1945, by Benjamin Britten, and premiered in Liverpool, England, on October 15, 1946. The work was requested by the UK Ministry of Education and used in “Instruments of the Orchestra”, a short film meant to educate about music (Bridcut, 2012). The following paragraph gives a short description of the composition and its instrumental families.

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is played by a symphony orchestra that includes woodwinds, brass, percussion and stringed instruments. Two flutes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two oboes and a piccolo represent the woodwinds instrumental family. Four horns, two trumpets, three trombones and bass tuba belong to the brass family. Whip, tam-tam, castanets, xylophone, wood block, snare drum, triangle, tambourine, cymbals, bass drum and timpani form percussion. Stringed family is represented by harp, first and second violins, violas, cellos and double basses (Schwarm, 2016). The composition was written in a way of showing the capabilities of each section of an orchestra. While the introduction is played by the entire orchestra, starting with the woodwinds, followed by stringed, brass and, in the end, percussion instruments, each further variation is played by a separate instrumental family, starting with the higher and moving to the lower-pitched instruments. The orchestra reassembles again in the final theme, written in the form of fugue (Schwarm, 2016). Instruments overlap, introducing a new melody. The original theme is played again in the grand finale.

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra introduces listeners to contrasting sounds of instruments and entire instrumental families. It also exposes them to musical forms of previous centuries. Benjamin Britten has allowed each instrument to have the stage in the sequence of instrumental leaps, while the background is occupied by different melodic ideas, making the composition not just a great sound piece, but an educational example for those, who begin to learn about music and orchestra.

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