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Benjamin Britten


Edward Benjamin Britten was a pianist, conductor, and composer from England. He is best known for his extensive operatic output, which includes Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, and The Turn of the Screw, among other works, but he also composed song cycles and a significant number of symphonic works.1)

Health Issues

Britten suffered with his health throughout his childhood after catching pneumonia when he was three months old. He was also exceedingly sensitive to criticism, and he frequently distanced himself from former acquaintances who insulted him.2)


Britten attended a small fee-paying elementary school in his birthplace of Lowestoft as a child before transferring to Gresham's School in Norfolk in 1928. He spent two years there before receiving a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied with John Ireland and Ralph Vaughan Williams.3)

Britten And Pears

Britten and Pears sailed to North America as friends in 1939, where they finally fell in love and began a relationship. Britten wrote the first of many song-cycles for Pears in 1940, Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo.4)

Ceremony Of Carols

This Christmas choral piece, written around the same time as the Hymn to Saint Cecilia in 1942, is one of Britten's best-known pieces. It's written for a three-part treble chorus, solo voices, and harp, and it's based on eleven Middle English texts.5)

Aldeburgh Festival

In 1948, Benjamin Britten founded what would become the famed Aldeburgh Festival in the Jubilee Hall on Crabbe Street, just a few doors down from his first house. It's now one of the summer's highlights for classical music fans, presenting new music by contemporary composers as well as Britten's classics.6)

Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Imogen Holst

Britten spent the majority of his life at Aldeburgh, in the red house close to the golf course, where he would take brisk afternoon strolls to clear his mind before continuing to compose. This photograph was taken in the grounds of Aldeburgh in 1955, and shows Britten conversing with Imogen Holst (daughter of Gustav Holst) and Peter Pears.7)

Partnership With Pears

Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears collaborated for nearly forty years, creating a magnificent musical legacy. They lived and worked together from 1957 until Britten's death in 1976; their red house now serves as the headquarters of the Britten-Pears Foundation, a musical organization dedicated to promoting their work.8)


Britten and Pears were both pacifists who applied to be conscientious objectors upon their return to England during World War II. Britten was initially only permitted to serve in the military as a noncombatant, but on appeal, he was granted unconditional exemption.9)


Home Secretary David Maxwell Fyfe pressed the police to enforce anti-homosexuality laws in the 1950s, which resulted in Britten being visited by police in 1953. He was so shocked by the occurrence that he suggested Pears enter into a phony marriage to assuage suspicions.10)

The War Requiem

The War Requiem, first performed on May 30, 1962, is one of Britten's most well-known pieces. It was commissioned to commemorate the consecration of Coventry Cathedral, which had been rebuilt following a World War II bombing strike. The music juxtaposes the traditional Latin text of the Requiem Mass with Wilfred Owen's war poems.11)

Life Peerage

Britten was the first composer to be awarded a life peerage, becoming Baron Britten of Aldeburgh in the County of Suffolk in 1976.12)


Britten died on December 4, 1976, of heart failure. His funeral was held in Aldeburgh Parish Church, where he was laid to rest in the churchyard. When Pears died ten years later, he was buried beside him.13)


In 2013, the 100th anniversary of Britten's birth, performances and activities are being staged all around the world to commemorate the composer's life and work. He's even on a commemorative stamp celebrating 'Great Britons,' as well as a new 50 pence piece.14)


Britten's impact on twentieth-century music was so significant that he inspired a number of tributes in and around his home town of Aldeburgh. This memorial glass in St Peter and St Paul's parish church, made in 1979, honors Britten's three church operas: The Prodigal Son, Curlew River, and The Burning Firey Furnace.15)

benjamin_britten.txt · Last modified: 2022/02/03 01:20 by eziothekilla34