"Very British" - what is that actually? Let's be honest, our neighbors from the island sometimes seem strange to us, and not just since the Brexit. In England, many things are different - typically British. Musically, too, England has gone its own way - often under the continent's radar.
One of the most important English composers of the 20th century is Benjamin Britten. His tonal language is unmistakable and of a peculiar pull, characterized by a careful and serene ability to condense, poetic enchantment or non-violent persuasion. The "Simple Symphony" is almost a schoolboy piece. A real boy's fun, with a thoroughly ironic "neoclassical" gusto.
Joseph Haydn's two stays in England in 1791-92 and 1794-95 occupy an exceptional position in his composing career. Haydn was almost 60 years old, had no experience abroad and no knowledge of English, and yet did what a genius is supposed to do: seize a historical opportunity with determination and fulfill his artistic mission. His "London Symphonies" became the model for the following generations of composers.
Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto owes its nickname "Emperor" to an English publisher, and indeed this work, written in the heroic key of E-flat major, is bursting with power and will to live. Europe was in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars while the composer was working on his last piano concerto. There is much to be heard of military energy in the first of the three movements - but also of something like heroic resistance and hopeful counter-proposal.