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Ten Pieces - 'Storm' Interlude from 'Peter Grimes'
Test your knowledge on this 'stormy' piece of music from Britten.

Ten Pieces - 'Storm' Interlude from 'Peter Grimes'

If you have enjoyed the Ten Pieces at BBC Bitesize, you may also enjoy this KS2 Music quiz all about Benjamin Britten's Storm Interlude from Peter Grimes.

In 2015 it was 70 years since this composition broke upon the ears of its first audience, in the closing weeks of World War 2. The piece was the first of Benjamin Britten's operas to be a big success.

Peter Grimes is still performed today, both in the UK and internationally. In fact, the Aldeburgh Festival staged a performance of Peter Grimes on the beach at Aldeburgh during the summer of 2013. See how much you know about this wonderful piece of music.

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1.
Towards one minute into the piece, which group of instruments comes clearly through the overall sound to create an atmosphere of rising menace?
The percussion
The brass
The strings
The woodwinds
These are snarling trombones and trumpets, playing in stark intervals of a fifth (you might like to look that up elsewhere and experiment with it; it plays quite a part in the atmosphere-building in our chosen pieces by Grieg and Mussorgsky, too).
2.
What was the main work within which the Interludes belong?
The opera Billy Budd
The opera Albert Herring
The opera Peter Grimes
The cantata Noye's Fludde
The opera tells the story of a fisherman from the same corner of Suffolk as where Britten lived.
3.
The score for this piece is marked Presto con fuoco: how does this mean Britten intends it to be played?
Steadily but loudly
Gradually getting faster (like a nautical counterpart to Grieg's Mountain King!)
At a dashing pace and with fiery energy
Almost as loud as everyone can play it
The original, standard musical-Italian instructions mean 'headlong and with fire' (perhaps suggesting thunderbolts not long to come!)
4.
About 3 minutes into the piece we hear a greater sense of steadiness: the calm within the storm, presumably. Which group of instruments is playing more sustainedly to suggest this?
The strings
The woodwinds
The brass
The harp
It is a welcome, if temporary, respite from the 'aural onslaught'.
5.
What more general musical techniques does Britten use to disturb and disorient the listener (and indeed, potentially, the performers!) during the Storm?
Frequent changes of key
Frequent shifts in the time-signature (how many beats per bar)
Frequent changes in both these aspects of the music
Wide and unpredictable changes in the overall volume
Well over half the pages of the full orchestral score contain an indication of change in one or the other (or, not infrequently, both!).
6.
What is the name of the original singer of the role of Grimes, for whom the Interludes would have offered a few welcome minutes' break from singing onstage?
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Peter Pears
Peter Dawson
Benjamin Luxon
Pears was Britten's personal and creative partner for almost 40 years.
7.
There are four Sea Interludes spaced throughout the opera, reflecting musically the changing moods of the sea (and, by fairly obvious extension, of the action and audience). Which of the other titles below is the only WRONG one?
Moonlight
Dawn
Sunday Morning
White Horses
There is no 'White Horses' movement (well though one might feel there could/should have been).
8.
What is the technical term for when players of any instrument (strings, winds, percussion or keyboards) keep a note going and busy-sounding, by playing it in a quivering way?
An ornament
A trill
A shake
A roll
'Shake' (Ans.2) is also possible but generally less commonly used; at any rate it is only one of a range of potential 'ornaments' or articulations ~ beyond just playing the notes as they stand with the instrument's more usual technique. 'Roll' (Ans.4) normally applies only to drums, or occasionally other percussion instruments (plenty of that in this piece, amongst everything else!).
9.
What instrument do the flute-players switch to during the piece, to enhance the effect of shrieking wind and spray?
A whistle
A piccolo
A whip
A wind-machine
The flutes (2 of them) and other woodwind play loud and high, but the piccolo section is intentionally even shriller.
10.
The Storm was one of a set of orchestral 'Interludes'. What does this term mean?
The music was played 'under', or during, the main onstage action
It was played as a series of purely musical sound-pictures, in intervals while nothing else was happening onstage
The music was optional and could be left out of a performance
The pieces were played as a set, like a four-movement symphony, during the Interval of the main stage work
Britten had prior experience at evoking mood alongside 'visuals', as a composer of film-scores: and instrumental interludes had been done before by others (e.g. Borodin's Polovtsian Dances in Prince Igor, and far further back, Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba to cover the action during Solomon).

 

Author:  Ian Miles

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