Benjamin Britten

Born 22 November 1913. Died 4 December 1976.
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Britten: Spring Symphony

In this Proms Music Guide, Andrew McGregor talks about Britten's Spring Symphony.

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Biography

Born in Suffolk on 22 November 1913 (propitiously, the feast day of St Cecilia, patron saint of music) Benjamin Britten began piano lessons aged five, composing songs for his mother by the age of ten. At 13 he began composition studies with Frank Bridge before entering the Royal College of Music in 1930. His documentary scores for the GPO (General Post Office) Film Unit brought him into collaboration with W. H. Auden, a liberating force, and in 1937 he not only attracted international attention with his Frank Bridge Variations at the Salzburg Festival, but also met the tenor Peter Pears, who would remain a lifelong partner and vocal interpreter.

Britten revitalised English opera with his first stage triumph Peter Grimes (1945), launching the Aldeburgh Festival three years later. He performed often as a conductor and pianist, and though he wrote a significant number of chamber and choral works (among them three string quartets, and the War Requiem, 1961) it is principally for his vocal and especially opera output that he continues to be remembered.

Links & Information

BBC Reviews

  1. Review of The Rape of Lucretia (conductor: Oliver Knussen; Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble)

    The Rape of Lucretia (conductor: Oliver Knussen; Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble) 2013

    Reviewed by Graham Rogers
    A deeply affecting experience that ought to win the opera many new admirers.
  2. Review of Cello Symphony / Cello Suite No.1

    Cello Symphony / Cello Suite No.1 2010

    Reviewed by Charlotte Gardner
    Bursting with contemplative beauty, instinctive phrasing, full-toned radiance.
  3. Review of String Quartets 2 and 3 / Three Divertimenti (Elias String Quartet)

    String Quartets 2 and 3 / Three Divertimenti (Elias String Quartet) 2010

    Reviewed by Andrew McGregor
    The Elias Quartet catches Britten’s powerful emotional undercurrents superbly.
  4. Review of Unknown Britten (feat: sop. Sandrine Piau, Northern Sinfonia, cond. Thomas Zehetmair)

    Unknown Britten (feat: sop. Sandrine Piau, Northern Sinfonia, cond. Thomas Zehetmair) 2009

    Reviewed by Andrew McGregor
    Buy this for Les Illuminations, but savour it for so many new discoveries.
  5. Review of Before Life and After

    Before Life and After 2009

    Reviewed by Charlotte Gardner
    A satisfying recital on every level.
  6. Review of The Turn of the Screw

    The Turn of the Screw 2007

    Reviewed by John Armstrong
    This newcomer is in many ways the state-of-the-art, 21st century Britten...
  7. Review of Suites for Solo Cello

    Suites for Solo Cello 2007

    Reviewed by Andrew McGregor
    There's something very British about the way these Suites manage to be profoundly...
  8. Review of Les Illuminations

    Les Illuminations 2005

    Reviewed by Claire Rogers
    The wonderful arching, sinuous lines of 'Antique' can never fail to charm...
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