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This review is taken from PN Review 101, Volume 21 Number 3, January - February 1995.

ABSENT FRIENDS Benjamin Britten's Poets: The Poetry he Set to Music, edited by Boris Ford (Carcanet) £25

Anyone at all interested in Benjamin Britten's music owes a debt of gratitude to Boris Ford for editing this book. It includes every poem that Britten set to music - all 360 of them. These are the printings of the poems that Britten's admirers will now want to have in their hands while listening again to Serenade, Spring Symphony, Nocturne or any other of the cycles, songs and canticles which set these texts. For the collector of new recordings, it immediately restores the old pleasure of following the words while listening to the music which was virtually ruined - in Britten's case as in that of any other composer setting poems - when those old floppy friendly sheets with clearly readable texts accompanying LPs became the tiny squares with microscopic print tucked under plastic tabs of CD cases. But the book is not exclusively for Britten fans; indeed, any serious reader of poetry will find it fascinating. Here is a personal anthology of remarkable poems never before found between the covers of a single book that represents the taste of a highly cultivated and highly sensitive reader for whom poetry meant almost as much as music from a very early age until the end of his life.

The poems are printed chronologically as they were taken up by Britten, whether singly or in groups, and all poems in foreign languages - Latin, Italian, French, German, and Russian - appear both in the original and in English translation. ...


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