BENJAMIN BRITTEN – (1913 – 1976)


Above: Britten in the mid-1960s (photograph by Hans Wild)

Description: Composer, Conductor, Violist, Pianist.

Known For: Britten was an accomplished pianist, frequently performing chamber music.

Instruments: Violin, Piano

Music Styles: Operatic, Classical

Location: United Kingdom

Date Born: 22nd November 1913
Location Born: Lowestoft, United Kingdom

Date Died: 4th December 1976
Location Died: Aldeburgh, United Kingdom
Cause Of Death: Heart Failure

Memorial: He is buried in the churchyard of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church there. His grave lies next to that of his partner, Sir Peter Pears.
Web Site: Britten-Pears Foundation

Other Links: See below:



Benjamin Britten OM CH

An English composer, conductor, violist and pianist.

Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH (22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976) was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British classical music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. His best-known works include the opera Peter Grimes (1945), the War Requiem (1962) and the orchestral showpiece The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (1945).

Born in Suffolk, the son of a dentist, Britten showed talent from an early age. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London and privately with the composer Frank Bridge. Britten first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to international fame. Over the next 28 years, he wrote 14 more operas, establishing himself as one of the leading 20th-century composers in the genre. In addition to large-scale operas for Sadler’s Wells and Covent Garden, he wrote “chamber operas” for small forces, suitable for performance in venues of modest size. Among the best known of these is The Turn of the Screw (1954). Recurring themes in the operas are the struggle of an outsider against a hostile society, and the corruption of innocence.

Britten’s other works range from orchestral to choral, solo vocal, chamber and instrumental as well as film music. He took a great interest in writing music for children and amateur performers, including the opera Noye’s Fludde, a Missa Brevis, and the song collection Friday Afternoons. He often composed with particular performers in mind. His most frequent and important muse was his personal and professional partner, the tenor Peter Pears; others included Kathleen Ferrier, Jennifer Vyvyan, Janet Baker, Dennis Brain, Julian Bream, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Mstislav Rostropovich. Britten was a celebrated pianist and conductor, performing many of his own works in concert and on record. He also performed and recorded works by others, such as Bach’s Brandenburg concertos, Mozart symphonies, and song cycles by Schubert and Schumann.

Together with Pears and the librettist and producer Eric Crozier, Britten founded the annual Aldeburgh Festival in 1948, and he was responsible for the creation of Snape Maltings concert hall in 1967. In his last year, he was the first composer to be given a life peerage.

In 1927, he began private lessons with Frank Bridge; he also studied, less happily, at the Royal College of Music under John Ireland, with some input from Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Britten was a prolific juvenile composer; some 800 works and fragments precede his early published works.

Britten was to meet in 1937 with the tenor Peter Pears, who was to become his musical collaborator and inspiration as well as his life partner.

In early 1939, Britten and Pears followed Auden to America, where Britten composed Paul Bunyan, an operetta.

The period in America was also remarkable for a number of orchestral works.

Britten and Pears returned to England in 1942.

Founding the English Opera Group in 1947 and the Aldeburgh Festival the following year, partly (though not solely) to perform his own works.

Jumping to 1960, this brought premiere of his most Shakespearean opera, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The greatest success of Britten’s career was, however, the musically more conventional War Requiem, written for the 1962 consecration of the newly reconstructed Coventry Cathedral.

He was honoured again by appointment to the Order of Merit (OM) on 23 March 1965.

Having previously declined a knighthood, Britten accepted a life peerage on 2 July 1976 as Baron Britten, of Aldeburgh in the County of Suffolk.

A few months later he died of heart failure at his house in Aldeburgh.