Benjamin Britten was an important 20th century English composer, conductor, pianist, violist and teacher.
Portrait by Paul Helm ©
Born: Lowestoft, England, on St Cecilia's Day (the patron saint of music)
Father: Robert, dental surgeon
Mother: Edith, amateur singer with musical ambitions for the children
Siblings: Youngest of 4
Partner: the tenor Sir Peter Pears
Cause of death: cardiovascular disease.
Grave: St Peter and St Paul Churchyard, Aldeburgh,Suffolk, England
2013 is the centenary of his birth and there are plenty of events to
celebrate his life and work. So expect to hear a lot more about him.
There is a site specifically set up for the centenary at
www,britten100.org with useful information about Britten and the planned celebrations.
- orchestral, vocal/choral songs, cello, music for children
- 16 operas
Best know works:
- The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
(subtitled Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Purcell)
- The War Requiem (Grammy award 1963, BRIT Award 1977)
- Peter Grimes
- Billy Budd
- Cello Symphony
- The Prodigal Son
- A Midsummer Night's Dream
- Death in Venice
His birthplace and family home is now Lowestoft's only 5 star hotel - Britten House. If you can't get to stay there you can take a look at their website: Britten House Hotel
Or there is the Red House at Aldeburgh where he lived with Peter Pears. There is also the Britten/Pears library. There is lots to see: The Red House
Born: Lowestoft, England 22 November 1913 (Feast of St Cecilia, patron saint of music)
His birthplace and family home is now Lowestoft's only 5 star hotel: Britten House
Died: Aldeburgh, Suffolk. 4 December 1976. Buried there next to his partner Sir Peter Pears
At 5 yrs started piano lessons and composing
At 14 yrs taught by composer Frank Bridges
At 16 yrs scholarship to Royal College of Music, taught by John Ireland.
After graduation wrote music for documentary films made by the Post Office Film Unit where he met and started a collaboration with W.H Auden.
At 24 yrs his mother died. Met the tenor Peter Pears who was to become his life long partner.
At 26 yrs (1939) went to Canada and USA with Peter Pears. War broke out so they didn't return till 1942. As pacifists they registered as conscientious objectors and were exempt from fighting.
1955 Travelled extensively in Europe and Far East. Influenced by the music of Bali and Japan.
1976 accepted a life peerage, becoming Baron Britten of Aldeburgh. Died 2 months later.
- The idea of a composer suddenly having a terrific idea and sitting up all night to write it is nonsense. Night-time is for sleeping.
- "Composing is like driving down a foggy road toward a house. Slowly you see more details of the house - the colour of the slates and bricks, the shape of the windows. The notes are the bricks and the mortar of the house".
On eBay you will find bargains galore but more interestingly there is a treasure chest of old items. Out of print books, old recordings no longer available, memorabilia and goods no longer sold on the High Street.To see what is currently on offer take a look at:
A beautiful English rose. Introduced in 2001 and bred by David Austin Roses.
War Requiem - Dies Irae opening
Rostropovich conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge / Intro & Adagio
Pears sings Schubert accompanied by Britten
- Britten100 All about the centenary celebrations.
- The Puccini of Lowestoft (Guardian article) by Hywel Williams
- Bio from Brain Juice
- Benjamin Britten - a project by students of the California Institute of Technology
Here are links to the English composers on our site: