BBC to celebrate life and work of Benjamin Britten throughout 2013

As the home of classical music, BBC Radio 3 is delighted to play a central part in the centenary celebrations. Along with the BBC’s Performing Groups we’re looking forward to bringing our audiences a range of Britten programming in this special year.”Roger Wright, Controller, Radio 3
Date: 11.09.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.59
The BBC is proud to announce a year of dedicated programming across BBC Radio, Television, the BBC Proms and the BBC Performing Groups in 2013 to commemorate the life and work of one of the greatest ever British composers, Benjamin Britten.
  • The BBC to dedicate a year of performance and programming to the life and work of Benjamin Britten
  • Every Britten Opera to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 throughout 2013
  • A BBC Radio 3 partnership with Aldeburgh Music for a weekend of live broadcasts
  • Brand new remastered Owen Wingrave on BBC Four
  • Rare archive Britten interviews to be broadcast
  • BBC Performing Groups to perform Britten’s works around the country

Highlights for Britten on the BBC, a year of programming commemorating 100 years since Britten’s birth, include new musical commissions, a partnership with Aldeburgh Music, performances by the BBC Performing Groups and programming exploring the life and work of Benjamin Britten.

The special year will start in January with English National Opera’s Billy Budd, the first of Radio 3’s broadcasts of every Britten opera throughout the year, and a series of Britten concertos at BBC Hoddinott Hall performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Throughout the year, the broadcasts will explore key themes, including Britten and community, and his unique relationship as a composer of children’s music. Britten on the BBC will also feature a partnership between Radio 3 and Aldeburgh Music, in the part of Suffolk which was so vital to Britten and his music.

As part of the partnership, Radio 3 will broadcast live from Aldeburgh in November 2013 for a weekend of programming beginning on the actual centenary of Britten’s birth (22-25 November). During the weekend, the station will be resident in Aldeburgh, presenting a world-class programme of live and specially recorded performances of Britten’s music from locations with strong Britten associations, including Aldeburgh, Snape, Orford and Lowestoft. And, very much in the spirit of the composer, performers will be both professional and amateur. BBC Four will also offer the public a weekend of screenings. The films will be a collection of archive recordings of BBC-recorded Britten performances at the festival.

The BBC played a significant part in the Britten story from the earliest days of the Corporation’s existence, both as a commissioner of new music, and as a broadcaster of performances and interviews with the composer himself. As part of Britten on the BBC in 2013, rare archive interviews and performances from this time will be brought to light.

BBC Four will curate classic Britten documentaries and performances recorded by the BBC throughout the year. It will also show a brand new series called Composers In Their Own Words. The series will feature extremely rare interviews that Britten gave to the BBC alongside expert comment.

BBC Four will also broadcast Billy Budd from Glyndebourne and the BBC’s Owen Wingrave, Britten's seminal opera, shown in a brand new remastered version of the classic BBC dramatisation.

There will also be further announcements about Britten television programming later this Autumn.

Throughout 2013, Radio 3, the home of classical music, will feature Britten as performer and conductor of other composers’ music through his recordings, and tell the Britten story using material from the BBC Archive. The station will also broadcast Britten’s works as performed by the BBC Performing Groups in strands including Live In Concert, The Sunday Concert, Afternoon On 3 and Opera On 3. Speech programming will also reflect the celebrations with a music feature on Saturday 26 January, presented by Ian Bostridge, looking at Britten’s life and work. Later in the year, for Remembrance Sunday Radio 3 will broadcast a Sunday feature on Britten and pacifism presented by Dennis Marks.

Live performance will feature heavily throughout the year on Radio 3, exploring the breadth of Britten’s output throughout the centenary season. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales begins the season in early 2013 with a series of Britten's concertos at BBC Hoddinott Hall, as well as the Spring Symphony at St David’s Hall.

The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performs Sinfonia da Requiem in Glasgow and Perth, where they are joined by Colin Matthews for a pre-concert discussion about Britten’s works. The BBC Symphony Orchestra celebrates the Britten centenary during the birthday weekend itself, 22-25 November 2013, with two concerts in Snape Maltings, and a semi-staged performance of Albert Herring at the Barbican, directed by Paul Curran.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra also performs Britten’s moving War Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall on Remembrance Sunday (10 November 2013). The BBC Singers celebrate the choir’s close relationship with the composer by performing a programme in Blythburgh Church, including Britten’s music closely associated with the group, also during the birthday weekend in November 2013. The 2013 BBC Proms will also be marking Britten’s centenary. Full details of the Proms festival will be announced in April 2013.

Roger Wright, Controller, BBC Radio 3 and Director of the BBC Proms, comments: “Britten is a significant part of the UK’s classical music history. His music and performances have inspired composers, performers and audiences alike. As the home of classical music, BBC Radio 3 is delighted to play a central part in the centenary celebrations. Along with the BBC’s Performing Groups we’re looking forward to bringing our audiences a range of Britten programming in this special year.”

Richard Klein, Controller of BBC Four, says: “BBC Four is the home for music on television and next year we’ll be looking at contemporary classical music in the 20th century as part of a major focus at the beginning of the year. Benjamin Britten is a key part of that story. Not only will BBC Four be offering licence fee payers a chance to see archive television gems in the region that inspired his work and life, Aldeburgh, but we will be proud to broadcast some of his classic works alongside rare and illuminating archive interviews.”

More programming highlights for Britten on the BBC across radio, television and the performing groups will be announced in forthcoming months.

Media contacts:

AH - BBC Radio 3 Publicity & Classical Music Television

CD4 - The BBC performing groups & The BBC Proms