Poetry and Music: The Holy Sonnets of John Donne

Saturday 8 Jun 2019 3pm

Part of Aldeburgh Festival

Mark Padmore tenor
Andrew West piano
Lavinia Greenlaw poet
Introduced by Kate Kennedy

Britten The Holy Sonnets of John Donne

When Britten set nine poems by Donne in 1945, he had recently visited the newly liberated concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. While that harrowing experience undoubtedly affected the emotional atmosphere of these meditations on death and repentance, the overall feeling is of an almost feverish religious ecstasy.

With musical language that seems to owe much to his idol Purcell, this is one of Britten’s most vocally elaborate and sophisticated song-cycles.


Lavinia Greenlaw will be signing books in the Hoffmann Foyer after the event, and a selection of titles by all the poets involved in the series, as well as texts by Donne, Blake, Hardy and Sitwell, will be on sale.


Photo credit: Marco Borggreve

Poetry and Music

Mark Padmore believes that musicians and audiences can gain a richer experience of songs by thinking more closely about the words set. Over the course of four Poetry and Music events, writer, broadcaster and performer Kate Kennedy is joined by leading poets including Patience Agbabi, Lavinia Greenlaw, Don Paterson and Fiona Sampson to discuss texts by Blake, Donne, Hardy and Soutar set by Britten in his song cycles.

The discussions are followed by performances from Padmore, Roderick Williams and pianist Andrew West.