Four Sea Interludes (tr Kreines)

From Wind Repertory Project
Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten (trans. Joseph Kreines)

Subtitle: From the opera Peter Grimes, op. 33-A

General Info

Year: 1944 / 2015
Duration: c. 16:15
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $225.00   |   Score Only (print) - $35.00


1. Dawn – 3:40
2. Sunday Morning – 3:40
3. Moonlight – 4:35
4. Storm – 4:10


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute Solo-I-II-III
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet Solo-I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bells
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Gong
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Peter Grimes is an opera by Benjamin Britten, with a libretto adapted by Montagu Slater from the narrative poem, Peter Grimes, in George Crabbe's book The Borough. The "borough" of the opera is a fictional village which shares some similarities with Crabbe's, and later Britten's, own home of Aldeburgh, a town on England's east coast.

It was first performed at Sadler's Wells in London on 7 June 1945, conducted by Reginald Goodall, and was the first of Britten's operas to be a critical and popular success. It is still widely performed, both in the UK and internationally, and is considered part of the standard repertoire. In addition, the Four Sea Interludes were published separately (as Op. 33a) and are frequently performed as an orchestral suite. The Passacaglia was also published separately (as Op. 33b), and is also often performed, either together with the Sea Interludes or by itself.

-Program Notes from Wikipedia

Peter Grimes is a fisherman, living in a small Suffolk town called ‘The Borough’. He is summoned to court after the mysterious death of his young apprentice, but is let off with a caution and warned not to hire another. Soon, however, he ignores the court’s ruling and orders a new apprentice from the workhouse. Then, one night, Grimes’ new apprentice falls to his death while Grimes prepares to go fishing. The townsfolk become convinced that Grimes has murdered the boy and resolve to hunt him down. Grimes, now almost mad, appears. He pours scorn on the people of The Borough, urging them to find him, and, finally, sails out to sea to sink his boat, drowning himself.

-Program Note by Royal Opera House

In 1942, after having spent time in America, Benjamin Britten decided to go back home to England. One contributing factor to this decision is said to be his reading of an article on the Suffolk poet Crabbe. The poem The Borough, particularly its section about Peter Grimes, moved Britten. Later the opera Peter Grimes would be one of his most important works. By the time of his death in 1976, Britten had received numerous prestigious awards and, to this day. is lauded as one of the most important English composers of the 20th century.

Peter Grimes. Benjamin Britten’s first opera, is about a fisherman in Aldeburgh on England’s eastern coast, a misanthropic loner who is hounded to self-destruction by the townspeople after the mysterious, but accidental, deaths of two of his apprentices. The opera's premiere as the first postwar production of the Sadler’s Wells Opera was immediately recognized as a landmark for both Britten and English opera. In the opera, the Sea Interludes are scene changes. Britten was extraordinarily adept at making a virtue of the necessity, of getting smoothly from one set to another, and his interludes not only take the listener from one physical location to another (giving the impression at times of going out to sea and back), but also go inside the characters’ minds, which throughout the opera are full of turmoil and doubt. There is not a bar in the interludes, no matter how beautiful, that is free of foreboding. They are integrated into the opera’s action, leading into the next scene without pause. In making concert pieces out of them, Britten put them in a different sequence and changed some endings to make them self-contained.

- Program Note adopted from Howard Posner

Throughout his life, Benjamin Britten composed prolifically and established himself as a leading twentieth century composer -- but it was specifically his operatic canon that gained him lasting global influence. Of any composer born in the twentieth century, his operas are performed worldwide the most frequently. Peter Grimes is arguably his most popular opera, and premiered in 1945 to critical and popular acclaim. The Four Sea Interludes are extracted from six that exist to cover scene changes in the staged opera. Musically significant not merely for their transportive effects that take the audience from one physical story location to another, they also explore both inner and outer turmoil among the opera’s characters and evoke a nearly constantly foreboding nature. The events of the opera merit this underlying menace; the story concerns itself with Peter Grimes, a loner fisherman who is hounded to self-destruction after the mysterious but accidental deaths of two of his apprentices. Benjamin Britten wrote the opera’s Interludes to lead into their respective next scenes without pause, and re-composed endings to enable performance of the Four Sea Interludes as a concert piece.

The first Interlude, Dawn, bridges the Prologue and the early morning of Act I, and in the opera follows the questioning of Peter Grimes regarding the death of his first apprentice. Britten’s Dawn reveals the timelessness of the morning calm on the ocean -- high voices singing like gulls, arpeggiated gestures that whirl and glisten like the early sun reflecting across the water, and brass chords that evoke the new light of the day. Sunday Morning is the Prelude to Act II and is played as the second Interlude. It is easy to hear church bells, the sun again off the waves, and the hurried but elated villagers in the music. The third Interlude is Moonlight, which depicts a tranquil night in the harbor as Peter Grimes walks the beach, fighting his inner turmoil, slipping into madness, and speaking to his deceased apprentices. The music is rich, beautiful, sweeping, and illustrative, yet laced (as are the first two movements) with the foreboding of the events of Act III.

Played as the last movement of the Four Sea Interludes is Storm, which is actually from Act I of the opera and tells of the breaking of a great storm over the town. While the rest of the folk have battened down the hatches, Grimes stays out -- introspective, “gazing into the sea and approaching storm.” The music’s thrashing violence again mimics Grimes’s turmoil; temporary refuge from the storm opens in a wide melodic arc taken from the aria Grimes sings as he tries to envision a way out of his situation, and finally the hope expressed in the aria is battered by the tempest’s final surge.

- Program Note from U.S. Coast Guard Band concert program, 10 October 2021


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer