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Paul Bunyan Overture

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Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten (arr. Charles Fussell)

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General Info

Year: 1941 / 1985
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts - $60.00   |   Score Only - $7.50


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The operetta Paul Bunyan was Benjamin Britten’s first work for musical theater. It was written during a two-year visit to the United States by Britten and his companion, tenor Peter Pears. It was conceived as a work for young singers and players to perform. With just a few starring roles, it included many small parts. The actor portraying Paul Bunyan is never seen and he has only a spoken part.

Paul Bunyan is the legendary lumberman, a folk hero who was bigger than life. The narrative ballad includes prototypical characters: a man of brawn but no brains, a charmer who marries the boss’s daughter, and a man of academic intelligence. The underlying theme is the development of America from virgin forest to civilization.

Bold fanfares announce Bunyan’s progress. Light woodwind figures represent the flowing river, fleet animals, and joy of accomplishment. The flurry of industry concludes the work.

The overture was dropped at the premier. Existing as only a piano score, Britten’s manuscript copier, Colin Matthews, completed the orchestration in 1970.

- Program Note by Foothill Symphonic Winds

Paul Bunyan, Op 17, is an operetta in two acts and a prologue composed by Benjamin Britten to a libretto by W. H. Auden, designed for performance by semi-professional groups. It premiered at Columbia University on 5 May 1941, to largely negative reviews, and was withdrawn by the composer. Britten revised it somewhat in 1976, and subsequently it had numerous performances and two commercial recordings.

The story is based on the folkloric American lumberjack Paul Bunyan, with the music incorporating a variety of American styles, including folk songs, blues and hymns. The work is strongly sectional in nature, highly reminiscent of the 'Broadway musical' style of the period.

- Program Note from Wikipedia


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State Ratings

  • Maryland: VI


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Foothill Symphonic Winds (Palo Alto, Calif.) (David Bruce Adams, conductor) - 8 March 2015

Works for Winds by This Composer