Apart from brief, introductory stops at The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge (both of which are orchestral Variations set on another English composer’s musical kernel), Benjamin Britten is best known for his operas and vocal music. But amid his output are also eight concertos, only one of them famous, two known, two obscure or unfinished, and two hiding in plain sight.
The 1932 Double Concerto for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra was an advanced student work, written half a year after Britten had received the Royal College of Music’s Ernest Farrar Prize for Composition and the penultimate work before he began attaching the seal of official approval—opus numbers—to his works. Britten wrote with displeasure about its “fatuous slow movement”, but Christopher Mark suggests in the Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Britten that it approaches the Sinfonietta op.1 in quality. Britten never wrote it out inorchestral score.
In 1938, after Britten moved into the Old Mill at Snape, he wrote his Piano Concerto “No.1”—an optimistic if ultimately misleading designation, since Britten was not to write another piano concerto in the strict sense. It was a fine success and immediately premiered at the Proms by Sir Henry Wood and the BBC Symphony Orchestra—although then still with the original slow movement which Britten later replaced with a Passacaglia typical, by then, for his style.