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Britten, (Edward) Benjamin

Britten, (Edward) Benjamin ( Lord Britten of Aldeburgh) (b Lowestoft, 1913; d Aldeburgh, 1976). Eng. composer, pianist, conductor. His birth on St Cecilia's Day, 22 Nov., was a happy augury for the career of one of Britain's greatest composers. Essentially a vocal composer, his operas and song-cycles won wide int. acceptance. He never abandoned the principles of tonality and was a ‘modern’ composer who reached a mass audience and a conservative whose originality no radical would sensibly deny. He shared with his predecessors Parry, Vaughan Williams, and Holst, an intense interest in the work of amateurs and children. His brilliant gifts as a pianist and cond., coupled with the virtuoso nature of his inventiveness, also led him to compose mus. for great performers such as the cellist Rostropovich and the singers Vishnevskaya, Fischer-Dieskau, and Janet Baker. The greatest personal influence on his mus. was his friendship with the tenor Peter Pears, for whom he comp. many operatic and vocal roles.

Britten's mus. gifts became apparent at an early stage. In sch. holidays he had lessons from Harold Samuel (pf.) and Frank Bridge (comp.); the influence of Bridge in particular was strong and lasting. Britten was at RCM 1930–3, but found mus. atmosphere uncongenial and resented official refusal to allow him to study with Berg in Vienna. Studied pf. with Benjamin and comp. with Ireland. His astonishing early works were pubd., incl. the Sinfonietta and A Boy was Born, and his song-cycle with orch. Our Hunting Fathers (text compiled and partly written by Auden) was perf. at Norwich Fest. 1936. He worked for the G.P.O. Film Unit, writing mus. for a dozen short documentaries, the best known being Coal Face and Night Mail (both 1936). In 1937, for the Boyd Neel String Orch.'s concert at the Salzburg Fest., he wrote the Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge. He and Pears followed their friend the poet Auden to N. Amer. in 1939, staying until 1942. While in NY, f.ps. of his Vn. Conc. (1939) and Sinfonia da Requiem (1940) were given in Carnegie Hall under Barbirolli. Returning to Eng., Britten settled at Snape and Aldeburgh, Suffolk. His opera Peter Grimes was perf. at SW on 7 June 1945, a day of importance for Eng. mus. comparable with the f.p. of Elgar's Enigma Variations in June 1899. His interest in chamber opera led in 1947 to foundation of the EOG (later EMT) and his desire for a fest. rooted in Eng. village life and the work of amateurs yet capable of enticing int. performers led to the Aldeburgh Festival, first held in 1948. Thereafter his career was uneventful outwardly except for the prolific output of works of all kinds, in many of which he took part as cond. or pianist. He excelled not only in his own mus.: as an accompanist in Schubert he was second to none (Salzburg Fest. 1952, recital with Pears), he played and cond. Mozart superbly, and cond. major works by Bach, Mahler, Elgar, Schumann, and others. The Aldeburgh Fest. also featured neglected works by composers whom Britten and his colleagues deemed to deserve reappraisal. After a major heart operation in 1973 his activities were much reduced. CH 1953, OM 1965. First composer to be created life peer ( Lord Britten of Aldeburgh, 1976). ( Lord Berners was a hereditary peer.)

A major strength of Britten's art, which contributes to the dramatic effectiveness of his operas, is his gift for finding the apt, simple, quickly memorable, and not thereafter easily forgotten phrase to illustrate a point or situation. Another feature is his uncanny ability to capture the imagination and interest of children. Such works as Let's Make an Opera, Noye's Fludde, and Saint Nicolas testify to this. He was much preoccupied with themes of innocence destroyed, of the persecution of the ‘outsider’ in society (stemming from his own pacifism and conscientious objection to war service), and of cruelty. These themes found their most impressive outlet in the operas Billy Budd, The Turn of the Screw, and Owen Wingrave, the two last being adaptations by Myfanwy Piper of Henry James. If these, and such works as the great War Requiem, represent the dark side of his musical personality, the 1953 Coronation opera Gloriana (a failure at first), his splendid Midsummer Night's Dream, the comedy Albert Herring, and a host of choral and instrumental works such as the pf. conc., the Cantata Academica, and the Spring Symphony show a capacity for joy. He invented a new genre of music theatre in the 3 church parables, the first (Curlew River) being an adaptation of a Japanese Noh play; his song-cycles, to Eng., Fr., It., Ger., and Russ. texts are magnificent word- settings; his 5 canticles are works of original insights; and his instrumental works, in particular the str. qts. and vc. suites, explore and stretch the players’ capacities without ceasing to be musical. Few composers have caught the public's imagination in their lifetime as vividly as did Britten; each new work was eagerly awaited and absorbed. Intensely practical, he won the devoted admiration of the artists for whom he wrote, and on his several visits to the Soviet Union formed a firm friendship with Shostakovich who ded. his 14th Sym. to him. If it is his operas, particularly Peter Grimes, with its evocation of early 19th-cent. Aldeburgh, which dominate his output, it is a mistake to overlook his genius in non-vocal forms. Prin. works are:OPERAS: Paul Bunyan, Op.17 (1940–1, rev. 1974); Peter Grimes, Op.33 (1945); The Rape of Lucretia, Op.37 (1946); Albert Herring, Op.39 (1947); The Beggar's Opera, Op.43 (new version of Gay's opera, 1948); Let's Make an Opera (The Little Sweep), Op.45 (1949); Billy Budd, Op.50 (1950–1, rev. 1960); Gloriana, Op.53 (1953); The Turn of the Screw, Op.54 (1954); Noye's Fludde, Op.59 (1958); A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.64 (1959–60); Owen Wingrave, Op.85 (1971); Death in Venice, Op.88 (1973; orch. suite arr. S. Bedford, 1984).CHURCH PARABLES: Curlew River, Op.71 (1964); The Burning Fiery Furnace, Op.77 (1966); The Prodigal Son, Op.81 (1968).BALLET: The Prince of the Pagodas, Op.59 (1956).ORCH.: Sinfonietta, Op.1 (1932); A Simple Symphony, Op.4 (1933–4); Soirées musicales, Op.9 (arr. of Rossini, 1936); Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op.10 (1937); Mont Juic, Op.12 (suite of Catalan dances composed jointly with L. Berkeley, 1937); Canadian Carnival, Op.19 (1939); Young Apollo, Op.16, pf., str. qt., str. orch. (1939, withdrawn until 1979); Overture, Paul Bunyan (1940, rev. 1974, orch. C. Matthews 1977); Sinfonia da Requiem, Op.20 (1940); An American Overture, Op.27 (1941–2, f.p. 1983); Matinées musicales, Op.24 (arr. of Rossini, 1941); Prelude and Fugue, Op.29, for str. (1943); Four Sea Interludes, Op.33a, Passacaglia, Op.33b, from Peter Grimes (1944); Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell), Op.34 (1946); Occasional Overture, Op.38 (1946); Men of Goodwill (Variations on a Christmas Carol) (1947); Ov., The Building of the House, Op.79 (with ch. ad. lib.) (1967); Suite on English Folk Tunes (A Time There Was …), Op.90 (1974); Lachrymae, Op.48a, va. and str. (1976, arr. of 1950 work for va. and pf.); The Prince of the Pagodas, concert suite arr. from 1956 ballet by Lankester (1979).CONCERTOS: pf., Op.13 (1938, rev. 1945); vn., Op.15 (1939, rev. 1950 and 1958); Diversions on a Theme, Op.21, pf. left-hand (1940, rev. 1954); Scottish Ballad, Op.26, 2 pf. (1941); vc. sym., Op.68 (1963).BRASS: Russian Funeral, brass and perc. (1936).CHORAL: Hymn to the Virgin (1930, rev. 1934); A Boy Was Born, Op.3 (1933, rev. 1955); Friday Afternoons, Op.7 (children's vv.) (1933–5); Te Deum (1934); Advance Democracy (1938); Ballad of Heroes, Op.14 (1939); AMDG, 4 prayers and holy songs of G. M. Hopkins, for unacc. ch. (1939); Ceremony of Carols, Op.28, treble vv. and hp. (1942); Hymn to St Cecilia, Op.27 (1942); Rejoice in the Lamb, Op.30 (1943); Festival Te Deum, Op.32 (1944); Saint Nicolas, Op.24 (1947–8); Spring Symphony, Op.44 (1948–9); Five Flower Songs (1950); Missa Brevis, Op.63 (boys’ vv.); Cantata Academica, Op.62 (1959); Jubilate Deo and Venite (1961); War Requiem, Op.66 (1961); Cantata Misericordium, Op.69 (1963); Voices for Today, Op.75 (1965); The Golden Vanity, Op.78 (boys’ vv.) (1966); Children's Crusade, Op.82 (1968); Sacred and Profane, Op.91 (1975); Welcome Ode, Op.95 (young people's ch. and orch.) (1976).SOLO VOICE & ORCH.: Quatre chansons françaises (1928); Our Hunting Fathers, Op.8 (1936); Les Illuminations, Op.18 (1938–9); Serenade, Op.31 (1943); Nocturne, Op.60 (1958); Phaedra, Op.93 (1975).SOLO VOICE & PIANO (unless otherwise indicated): 3 Early Songs (1922–6); 4 Cabaret Songs (1937); On This Island, Op.11 (1937); Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Op.22 (1939–40); Folk-Song Arrangements, Vol. I British (1945), II French (1946), III British (1948); 9 Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Op.35 (1945); Canticle I, My Beloved is Mine, Op.40 (1947); A Charm of Lullabies, Op.41 (1947); Canticle II, Abraham and Isaac, Op.51 (1952); Winter Words, Op.52 (1953); Canticle III, Still Falls the Rain, Op.55 (with hn. and pf.) (1954); Songs from the Chinese, Op.58 (v. and guitar) (1957); 6 Hölderlin-Fragmente, Op.61 (1958); Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, Op.74 (1965); The Poet's Echo, Op.76 (1965); Who are these Children?, Op.84 (1969); Canticle IV, Journey of the Magi, Op.86 (1971); Canticle V, The Death of St Narcissus, Op.89 (v. and hp.) (1974); A Birthday Hansel, Op.92 (v. and hp.) (1975); 8 Folk Song Arrangements (v. and harp) (1976).CHAMBER WORKS: Elegy, va. (1926); Rhapsody, str. qt. (1929); Quartettino, str. qt. (1930); Phantasy String Quintet (1932); Phantasy Oboe Quartet, Op.2 (1932); 2 Insect Pieces, ob., pf. (1935, Op. posth., f.p. 1979); Suite, Op.6, vn., pf. (1934–5); 3 Divertimenti, str. qt. (1936); Temporal Variations, ob., pf. (1936); Reveille, vn., pf. (1937); str. qt. No.1, Op.25 (1941), No.2, Op.36 (1945), No.3, Op.94 (1975); str. qt. in D (1931, rev. 1974); Lachrymae, Op.48, va., pf. (1950); 6 Metamorphoses after Ovid, Op.49, ob. (1951); vc. sonata, Op.65 (1961); Suite No.1 for vc., Op.72 (1964), No.2, Op.80 (1967), No.3, Op.87 (1971); Gemini Variations, Op.73 (fl., vn., and pf. 4 hands) (1965); Tema-Sacher, vc. (1976).PIANO: 5 Walztes (Waltzes) (1923–5, re-written 1969); Holiday Diary, Op.5 (1934); Sonatina Romantica (1940, f.p. Aldeburgh 1983); Night Piece (Notturno) (1963).2 PIANOS: Introduction and Rondo alla burlesca, Op.23, No.1 (1940); Mazurka Elegiaca, Op.23, No.2 (1941).ORGAN: Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Vittoria (1946).INCIDENTAL MUSIC FOR FILMS, PLAYS, AND RADIO: Coal Face, Night Mail (1936); The Ascent of F6, Love from a Stranger (1937); Hadrian's Wall (1938); The Sword in the Stone (1938; concert suite for chamber ens. ed. C. Matthews); Johnson Over Jordan (1939); The Sword in the Stone (1939); The Rescue (1943); This Way to the Tomb (1945); The Duchess of Malfi (1946); The Dark Tower (1946); Men of Goodwill (1947); and others.

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"Britten, (Edward) Benjamin." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Britten, Benjamin

Benjamin Britten

Composer, conductor, pianist

For the Record

Selected compositions

Sources

Composer, conductor, and pianist Benjamin Britten was a giant of mid-twentieth-century British music. The creator of War Requiem, one of the most performed pieces of classical music, he wrote an important body of songs for amateurs and, perhaps most importantly, revived modern British opera. Brittens operas dealt with themes of compassion, individualism, and threatened innocence. He composed music in a style noted for its melodic thrust, leanness, and characteristic sound, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Although casual listeners might identify his dissonant passages as modern, the New York Times observed that he never embraced the more controversial musical fashions of his time.

The slim, curly-haired Britten was, according to Publishers Weekly, at once gentle and cruel, shy and ruthless, sexually timid and fiercely loving, a good friend and a severe enemy. Born Edward Benjamin Britten on November 22, 1913, in Lowestoft, England, he learned piano early and composed prolifically beginning at the age of five. When his parents brought him to Englands Norwich Festival in 1924, he impressed composer Frank Bridge, who took him on as a pupil and encouraged him to look beyond Great Britains borders to such continental composers as Béla Bartok and Arnold Schoenberg.

In the early 1930s Britten studied at the Royal College of Music. In 1935 he was hired by the British General Post Office to provide music for a series of documentary films. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, he had to satisfy the highly particularized yet diverse demands of film and in doing so he cultivated the expressive immediacy and technical aptitude that were to distinguish his operatic work.

On the film set, Britten also met poet W. H. Auden, who was writing scripts. Britten and Auden became friends and decided to collaborate outside the studio. They launched into social and political commentary with the 1936 song cycle Our Hunting Fathers, and in 1939 they collaborated on the choral work Ballad of Heroes.

With the advent of World War II, Britten and a companion, tenor Peter Pears, traveled to Brooklyn, New York. Outside his native country, Britten freed himself from his musical inhibitions. He used text by the French poet Rimbaud to create the song cycle Les Illuminations, which the Washington Post called one of his finest. He also set the sonnets of sixteenth-century Italian artist Michelangelo to music and in 1941 collaborated with librettist Auden on the opera Paul Bunyan.

After two years in the United States Britten began to miss his native country and in 1941 decided to go home. I had become without roots, he recalled in his acceptance

For the Record

Born Edward Benjamin Britten, November 22,1913, in Lowestoft, England; died December 4, 1976, in Aldeburgh, England; son of Robert (a dentist) and Edith Rhoda (an amateur singer) Britten. Education: Attended Royal College of Music, London, 1930.

Wrote scores for documentary films, 1934-37; moved to U.S., 1939; returned to England, 1941, and worked for the propaganda division of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); founded English Opera Group and staged the Rape of Lucretia, 1946, Albert Herring, 1947, and a reworking of The Beggars Opera, 1948; founded a music festival in Aldeburgh, 1948; composed opera for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, 1953; staged the War Requiem, 1962; New York Citys Metropolitan Opera performed Death in Venice, 1974.

Selected awards: Companion of Honour, 1952; Aspen Award, 1964; New York Critics Circle award, 1964; Order of Merit, 1965; granted a life peerage by Queen Elizabeth II, 1976.

speech for his 1964 Aspen Award, as quoted in the Washington Post, and when I got back to England I was ready to put them down. During the remainder of the war, Britten wrote music for British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcasts, gave concerts, and refined his command of setting British verse to music.

With the end of the war, Brittens career took off. On June 7, 1945, his opera Peter Grimes debuted at the Sadlers Wells Theater. Grimes was an immediate success, and it established Britten as a well-received music dramatist. Many critics were impressed by Britten but some pointed out his dazzling technical facility [and dismissed] him as a clever but superficial artist, noted the New York Times.

Britten produced many compositions through the late 1940s. He set poet John Donnes sonnets to music and wrote a Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra, which the Washington Post called witty, ingenious, and one of the most popular orchestral compositions of the 20th century. Britten also penned the St. Nicholas contata and produced his Spring Symphony.

Brittens operatic output, however, was limited by Great Britains lack of support for that art form. His 1946 Rape of Lucretia and 1947 comedy Albert Herring had to be performed in concert with a small ensemble of singers. To remedy this situation and to promote modern British opera, Britten helped form the English Opera Group. In 1948 he and Pears moved from London back to his native region of East Anglia, where they founded the Aldeburgh Festival. The English Opera Group in effect became the house opera company at Aldeburgh, and Britten devoted much of the remainder of his life to writing music for Aldeburgh.

Throughout the 1950s Britten was inspired by the art and voice of the remarkable English tenor, Peter Pears, according to the Washington Post. Concentrating on opera in 1951, Britten wrote Billy Budd for the Festival of Britain. When Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, he presented Gloriana, a largely unsuccessful study of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1954 he offered the chamber opera The Turn of the Screw at the Venice Biennale and in 1960 created an operatic score for William Shakespeares A Midsummer Nights Dream.

On May 30, 1962, Britten debuted his War Requiem at the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral. The church had been bombed out during World War II and Britten conceived the Requiem as a great prayer for peace. For his text, he chose a mixture of the Latin Mass for the Dead and the poems of Wilfred Owen, a young English soldier who had been killed in World War I. The Requiem was an instant success with the British public and its appearance marked a second peak in Brittens public esteem.

Also in the early 1960s, Britten established a fruitful partnership with Russian cellist Mistislav Rostropovich. The two produced a cello symphony in 1963 and in 1965 completed a song cycle, The Poets Echo, inspired by a group of poems by Russian writer Aleksandr Pushkin. Turning in another direction toward the end of the decade, Britten wrote the quasi-operatic parables Curlew River, The Burning Fiery Furnace, and The Prodigal Son, which grew out of his dual fascination with Japanese classic drama and the rituals of medieval Christianity, according to the New York Times.

With the opening of a new larger concert hall at Aldeburgh in 1967, Brittens prowess as a conductor was further recognized. Despite his lack of enthusiasm about conducting, he consistently touched an intangible when leading orchestras, as noted in the Christian Science Monitor. Brittens extensive library of recordings, of both his own works and works by composers Elgar, Bach, Schubert, and Schumann, was called one of the great treasuries of contemporary music by the Washington Post.

Britten remained active into the early 1970s, producing Owen Wingrave, an opera for television, and Death in Venice, the only opera he wrote expressly for Aldeburgh. In 1973 he underwent extensive open heart surgery and never fully recovered. He died at his home in Aldeburgh on December 4, 1976.

Selected compositions

Simple Symphony for Strings, 1934.

(With W. H. Auden) Our Hunting Fathers, 1936.

Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge (string orchestra), 1937.

Love from a Stranger (film score), 1937.

Concerto in D for Piano and Orchestra, 1938.

Les Illuminations (songs for soprano and strings), 1939.

(With W. H. Auden) Ballad of Heroes, 1939.

Sinfonia da Requiem for Orchestra, 1941.

Hymn to St. Cecilia (choral work; text by W. H. Auden), 1942.

Prelude and Fugue for 18 Strings, 1943.

Rejoice in the Lamb (cantata), 1943.

Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, 1943.

The Holy Sonnets of John Donne (song cycle for tenor and piano), 1945.

Peter Grimes (opera), 1945.

Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra, 1946.

The Rape of Lucretia (opera), 1946.

Albert Herring (opera), 1947.

Missa Brevis in D, 1950. Metamorphoses (oboe), 1951.

Gloriana (opera), 1953.

The Turn of the Screw (opera), 1954.

War Requiem (choirs, orchestra, chamber orchestra, and organ), 1962.

Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, 1963.

Songs and Proverbs of William Blake (songs for baritone and piano), 1965.

Tit for Tat (songs based on the poems of Walter de la Mare), 1968.

Owen Wingrave (television opera), 1970.

Death in Venice (opera), 1973.

Lachrymae (viola and piano), 1976.

Sources

Books

Carpenter, Humphrey, Benjamin Britten: A Biography, Scribners, 1993.

Sadie, Stanley, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Macmillan, 1980.

Periodicals

Christian Science Monitor, December 6, 1976.

High Fidelity, September 1977.

New York Times, December 5, 1976.

Publishers Weekly, May 10, 1993.

Village Voice, December 20, 1976.

Washington Post, December 5, 1976.

Jordan Wankoff

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Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten

The English composer, pianist, and conductor Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) revitalized English opera after 1945.

Born in Lowestoft, Suffolk, Benjamin Britten had a normal preparatory school education, at the same time studying with some of the best musicians in England. At the age of 16 he entered the Royal College of Music on a scholarship. By then he had already composed a large quantity of music, and before long he was represented in print with the publication of the Sinfonietta for chamber orchestra, written when he was 19.

Prior to World War II Britten furnished music for a number of plays and documentary films. He also continued with other composing, the most prominent item being the Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge (1937), his first major success. He lived in the United States from 1939 to 1942. Despite the turmoil of war, the period from 1939 to 1945 was a highly creative one for him, climaxed by the production of his opera Peter Grimes (1945). A year later Britten helped to form the English Opera Company, devoted to the production of chamber opera and in 1948 he founded the summer festival at Aldeburgh, where he made his home. He performed frequently in public as pianist and conductor.

Britten's performance skills were impressive, but even more so were the amount and variety of music he composed. Early in his career he wrote a moderate amount of solo and ensemble music for instruments, among which is The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946), comprising variations and fugue on a theme by Henry Purcell, and later he composed several big works for the cello. Quite in the British tradition, though, music employing voices far outweighs the purely instrumental in his output. He wrote over 100 songs, mainly organized in the form of song cycles or solo cantatas, which he called "canticles," and he made arrangements of several volumes of folk songs. Representative examples are the excellent Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings (1943); Canticle No. 3, Still Falls the Rain (1954); and The Poet's Echo (1967), six songs to poems of Aleksandr Pushkin. Complementing the solo pieces for voice are numerous large works involving chorus, such as A Ceremony of Carols (1942), the Spring Symphony (1949), the Cantata Academica (1960), and especially the War Requiem (1962), which are among his best and most popular compositions.

But it is his operas that carried Britten's name farthest. Beginning rather poorly with Paul Bunyan (1941), he made a spectacular turnabout with Peter Grimes. Following these operas came two chamber operas, The Rape of Lucretia (1946) and Albert Herring (1947); a new version of The Beggar's Opera (1948); Let's Make an Opera (1949), a work for children; Billy Budd (1951); Gloriana (1953), written for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; The Turn of the Screw (1954); A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960); and three dramatized parables for church performance. While by no means uniformly successful, they represent the most sustained and influential attempt by an Englishman to create an English repertory since the time of Purcell.

With so much music to his credit, Britten must certainly be counted among the most fluent of modern composers. He is also one of the least problematical. Leaving polemics and innovation to others, he settled for a conservative tonal idiom that offers few surprises in vocabulary, textures, or formal organization. His roots are strongly in the English past, centering on Purcell and earlier composers of the Elizabethan and Tudor periods. From Purcell, Britten said he learned how to set English words to music. From this source he also may have derived his attachment to vocal music, including opera, as well as his preference for baroque forms, such as the suite and the theme and variations. Britten's strengths are his masterful handling of choral sonorities, alone or in conjunction with instruments, his imaginative treatment of the word-music relationship, his sharp sense for the immediate theatrical effect, and his unusual interest and skill in writing music for children.

Britten's example stimulated English composition, particularly in the operatic field, as it had not been stirred for ages. The United States recognized his contributions to music when, in 1963, he was the first winner of the $30,000 Robert O. Anderson Award in the Humanities.

In addition to being remembered for his compositions, Britten also gained fame as an accompanist and as a conductor. In 1976 he was declared a life peer (the granting of a non-hereditary title of nobility in Great Britain). He died later that year.

Further Reading

The most recent study of Britten is Mervyn Cooke Britten and the Far East, Boydell & Brewer, 1997. Other recent sources are Peter J. Hodgson Benjamin Britten: A Guide to Research, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996; and Peter Evans The Music of Benjamin Britten, Oxford University Press, 1996. Hans Keller and Donald Mitchell, eds., Benjamin Britten: A Commentary on His Works from a Group of Specialists (1952), is somewhat lavish in its praise but otherwise gives illuminating remarks on Britten's first 40 years. A good general treatment of his works is Patricia Howard, The Operas of Benjamin Britten: An Introduction (1969). There is a chapter on Britten in Joseph Machlis, Introduction to Contemporary Music (1961). Eric Salzman, Twentieth Century Music: An Introduction (1967), provides a good general survey of Britten's period. R. Murray Schafer, British Composers in Interview (1963), is a revealing exposition of the tastes and ideas of Britten and his contemporaries. □

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Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh

Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh, 1913–76, English composer. Britten's most characteristic expression is found in his vocal music, much of which was written for his partner, the tenor Sir Peter Pears. His many song cycles and choral works include A Boy Was Born (1933) and A Ceremony of Carols (1942). Britten's great War Requiem (1962), setting the bitter war poems of Wilfred Owen, was first performed at the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, built beside the ruins of the old, destroyed during World War II. In his operas, which include Paul Bunyan (1941), Peter Grimes (1945), The Rape of Lucretia (1946), The Beggar's Opera (1948), Billy Budd (1951), The Turn of the Screw (1954), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960), and Death in Venice (1973), he displayed a sensitivity to text and a fondness for variation techniques, dynamic dissonance, and the use of ground basses. Britten's instrumental works, some composed when he was a youth, display considerable technical brilliance and colorful orchestration. A notable and popular example, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946), written for a film, is based on a theme by Purcell. He was created a life peer in 1976.

See selected letters ed. by P. Reed and M. Cooke (6 vol., 1991–2012); biographies by I. Holst (2d ed. 1970), E. W. White (new ed. 1970), H. Carpenter (1992), P. Kildea (2013), and N. Powell (2013); studies by P. Evans (1979), L. Walker (2009), H. Wiebe (2012), and M. Bostridge, ed. (2013).

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"Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/britten-benjamin-baron-britten-aldeburgh

Britten, Benjamin

Britten, Benjamin (1913–76). The most distinguished English composer of his generation, Britten showed original talent from an early age. Educated at the Royal College of Music (London), he was impatient with the parochialism of much English musical life, though his roots were firmly in East Anglia, where he had his home for 30 years. In 1945 Britten's opera Peter Grimes was premièred in London. Its impact was remarkable: Britten had written an opera which quickly established itself in the international repertoire and which combined a distinctively modern style with the ability to appeal to the general musical public. Thereafter Britten's prolific output demonstrated his fluency in writing for the human voice and his capacity to match musical subtlety with psychological insight. A brilliant pianist, Britten's commitment to musical performance was reflected in the foundation of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. He was created a life peer in 1976.

John W. Derry

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Britten, (Edward) Benjamin

Britten, (Edward) Benjamin (1913–76) English composer. He is best known for his operas, which rank him among the foremost composers of the 20th century. He also wrote numerous songs, many especially for Peter Pears. Britten's operas include Peter Grimes (1945), Billy Budd (1951), The Turn of the Screw (1954), and Death in Venice (1973). Other works include the popular Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1945) and War Requiem (1962). In 1948, he established the music festival held annually at his home town of Aldeburgh, on the e coast of England. He was made a peer in 1976.

http://www.musicweb.uk.net/britten

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