‘It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness & of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment & never satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature, and everlasting beauty of monotony. And the essentially “pretty” colours of the normal orchestral palate are used to paint this extraordinary picture of loneliness. And there is nothing morbid about it. The same harmonic progressions that Wagner used to colour his essentially morbid love-scenes are used here to paint a serenity literally supernatural. I cannot understand it – it passes oveer me like a tidal wave – and that matters not a jot either, because it goes on for ever, even if it is never performed again – that final chord is printed on the atmosphere.’
- Benjamin Britten (in a letter).