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COFFEE BREAK | That Time Dudley Moore Enraged Benjamin Britten

By Ludwig Van on December 14, 2015

Dudley Moore at the piano
Dudley Moore at the piano

The usual suspects for classical music humorists are names like Victor Borge, Flanders and Swann, and Merrie Melodies cartoons. But one of our favourites, however, was the late great comedian, composer and pianist Dudley Moore.

Arguably, his best was his uncanny take on composer Benjamin Britten and the tenor Peter Pears. Brittain had taken great care in his arrangement of old English Folk Songs and would proudly perform them with his partner Sir Peter Pears.

Moore was a fan of Britten’s arrangements, but couldn’t resist poking some fun at the rather idiosyncratic mannerisms of Pears’ very English nasal pronunciations and Britten’s penchant for dramatic repetition of certain musical phrases.

He is an example of Britten and Pears performing, “O Waly, Waly”.

Now here is Moore’s rather brilliant “Little Miss Britain”. You’ll notice he manages to parody both Brittain and Pears at the same time. (That was Sir Jonathan Miller doing the intro as an English petit-bourgeois). The mannerisms are uncanny. Also, listen to his exaggeration of the word “Muffet”.

It has been said that Pears was flattered by Moore’s humorous treatment, but Brittain was so upset he refused to talk to Moore ever again.


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