Boosey & Hawkes

Britten

 Portrait

Benjamin Britten
1913 - 1976

Born on the festival of St. Cecilia (the patron saint of music), Benjamin Britten is the most widely performed British 20th century composer. His craftsmanship and versatility produced works for every genre, from large-scale symphonic and operatic scores, to choral and vocal works, many of which were written for his partner Peter Pears. From 1945 onwards he founded a new English-language opera tradition, with works such as Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw now established in the international repertoire. His enormously successful War Requiem summed up his deeply-held pacifism.

Britten displayed insight into both the dark and light sides of human nature. Recurring themes in his works include conflicts between the outsider and society, moral good and lurking evil, innocence and experience. Partly as a vehicle for such themes and partly for educative purposes, he enjoyed writing a notable amount of works for, or involving, children - such as his famous The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell), and the Ceremony of Carols.

His music has strong links to literature. He had a lifelong collaboration with the poet WH Auden, and showed tremendous skills at setting words in adventurous ways which proved extremely communicative with the audience. His accompanying clarity of harmony enabled him to create scenes of perfect naÔvity, menace, or sharp satire - indeed, he claimed it was his aim to achieve "perfect clarity of expression".

Recommended Listening:

Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, War Requiem

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Four Sea Interludes (from Peter Grimes) Op. 33a - Dawn PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Four Sea Interludes (from Peter Grimes) Op. 33a - Moonlight PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Four Sea Interludes (from Peter Grimes) Op. 33a - Storm PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Four Sea Interludes (from Peter Grimes) Op. 33a - Sunday Morning PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Passacaglia (from Peter Grimes) Op. 33b PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Young Person's Guide to The Orchestra (Main Theme) PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
War Requiem - Requiem aeternam PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
War Requiem - Dies irae PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
War Requiem - Offertorium PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
War Requiem - Sanctus PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
War Requiem - Agnus Dei PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
War Requiem - Libera me PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
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Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra - Fugue PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra - Theme PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Billy Budd - Blow Her Away PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Billy Budd - Deck Ahoy! PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Billy Budd - Vere! Vere! Officers and Men PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Four Sea Interludes - Dawn PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Four Sea Interludes - Sunday Morning PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions
Variations on A Theme of Frank Bridge - Romance PlayClick for Truetone ordering instructions