This is one of Britten’s many pieces of ‘incidental music’: compositions written specifically for film, radio or theatre. This score accompanies the WH Auden/Christopher Isherwood collaborative theatre piece The Ascent of F6, a play that manages to be both a psychological study of mountaineering and a satire on British imperialism.

Among the ‘transition’ music between scenes, often just creating atmosphere and allowing scenery to be moved, there are some beautiful and quirkily individual passages of music. One of the most noteworthy, perhaps, is the original appearance of ‘Funeral Blues’: it is better known as a Cabaret song for voice and piano, but was originally written for choir, piano duet and percussion as part of the score to Ascent.

Image above: WH Auden, William Coldstream and Britten outside the Downs School, Colwall. Photographer: unknown.

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