Peter Pears

Biography

Born: June 22, 1910; Farnham, England   Died: April 3, 1986; Aldeburgh, England  
Peter Pears, for many years, embodied British vocal music, both opera and song. Benjamin Britten wrote 14 operas and over 50 songs and song cycles for him, and he appeared in the premieres of many other major English works. He was one of the three founders of the Aldeburgh Festival, and he and Britten established the Britten/Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies, where he directed the various singing programs until his death.

Given
Read more these impressive credentials and influence, it is rather surprising that as a singer he had distinct limitations. While he was capable of excellent singing, his voice was not especially beautiful, with a rather reedy tone, and at times also with a pronounced wobble. However, his musical intelligence, elegant phrasing, and expressive use of text and the vocal line were to create his place in music history.

His first musical career plan was to be an organist, and he studied that at the Hertford College of Oxford, but he later enrolled at the Royal College of Music in London, where he remained from 1933 to 1935 as an "Operatic Exhibitioner." He then pursued studies with Elena Gerhardt and Dawson Freer. He began his professional singing career as a member of the BBC Singers in 1934, and it was through that group that he and Britten first met.

His first recital with Britten was in 1937 at Balliol, followed by a tour of the United States and Europe performing chamber music, including material written by Britten. When they returned, they performed his Michelangelo Sonnets at Wigmore Hall. His operatic debut was as Hoffmann in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann at the Strand Theater in London in 1942; he joined the Sadler's Wells Opera Company in 1943, singing lyric tenor leads. Britten had begun to write the role of Peter Grimes for him, with funding from the Koussevitsky Foundation, and the opera had its world premiere in 1945 at the Sadler's Wells. Thereafter, while he still appeared in other composer's works, he and Britten were an established musical team, and the next decades saw the appearances of many more operas written for Pears. In 1946, he created the role of the Male Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia, the title role of Albert Herring in 1947, Captain Vere in Billy Budd in 1951, Essex in Gloriana in 1963, Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw in 1954, Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1960, and Aschenbach in Death in Venice in 1973. He also created the role of Pandarus in Walton's Troilus and Cressida. In the song repertoire, he premiered Berkeley's Stabat Mater, Tippett's A Child of Our Time and Boyhood's End, as well as Britten's Michelangelo Sonnets, Donne Sonnets, and Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, to name just the most famous. He was a noted student of early music, frequently performing English lute songs in his recitals, and he and Britten published editions of several songs by Purcell.

While most strongly associated with English music and English venues, he was also a noted soloist at the Holland Festival and the Salzburg Festival.

Pears and Britten were necessarily discreet about the intimate nature of their relationship, but in music history, their lifelong partnership and love affair is one of the most productive and influential, perhaps surpassed only by that of Robert and Clara Schumann. They are buried next to one another in Aldeburgh. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 140 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Luciano Pavarotti Edition 1 - The First Decade
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002051802 Release Date: 05/19/2014   Number of Discs: 28
    Composer:  Vincenzo Bellini,  Gaetano Donizetti,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Giacomo Puccini  ... 
    Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Luciano Pavarotti,  Josephine Veasey,  Cornelius Opthof  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Bonynge,  Lamberto Gardelli,  Zubin Mehta,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Ambrosian Chorus,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra  ... 
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  • 2.
    Britten: Piano Concerto; Matyas Seiber: To Poetry; Alan Bush: Voices Of The Prophets
    Label: Testament   Catalog: 1493 Release Date: 02/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Alan Bush,  Mátyás Seiber
    Performer:  Noel Mewton-Wood,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Basil Cameron
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  • 3.
    Britten: War Requiem / Davies, Britten, Pears, Harper, Fischer-Diseskau
    Label: Testament   Catalog: 1490 Release Date: 12/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Heather Harper,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Meredith Davies
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Melos Ensemble London,  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,  Coventry Cathedral Choir
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  • 4.
    Das Alte Werk - 50-CD Collection
    Label: Teldec   Catalog: 46438 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Frideric Handel,  Orlando Gibbons  ... 
    Performer:  Herbert Tachezi,  Gustav Leonhardt,  Frans Brüggen,  Jeannette Van Wingerden  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Gustav Leonhardt,  Werner Ehrhardt,  Giovanni Antonini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Concentus Musicus,  Leonhardt Consort,  Studio for Early Music  ... 
    On sale! $299.98
    CD: $189.99
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  • 5.
    Decca Sound - The Analogue Years
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001934702 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 54
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Anton Bruckner,  Arnold Schoenberg,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Pascal Rogé,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Marilyn Horne,  Luciano Pavarotti  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Sir Georg Solti,  Bernard Haitink,  Horst Stein  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $169.98
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  • 6.
    Britten The Performer - Complete Decca Recordings
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001922102 Release Date: 10/22/2013   Number of Discs: 27
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Henry Purcell,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Franz Joseph Haydn  ... 
    Performer:  Adrian Thompson,  John Tobin,  Jenny Hill,  Robert Tear  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir,  Wandsworth School Choir  ... 
    Recommendation
    CD: $104.49
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  • 7.
    Julian Bream - The Complete RCA Album Collection
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 546242 Release Date: 10/15/2013   Number of Discs: 42
    Composer:  Girolamo Frescobaldi,  Mateo Pérez de Albeniz,  Domenico Scarlatti,  Domenico Cimarosa  ... 
    Performer:  Julian Bream,  Peter Pears,  George Malcolm,  John Williams  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Malcolm Arnold,  Sir Colin Davis,  André Previn,  David Atherton  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Melos Ensemble London,  Julian Bream Consort,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 8.
    Britten: War Requiem / Britten, Vishnevskaya, Pears [2-CDs & Blu-ray Audio]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001895702 Release Date: 09/17/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Galina Vishnevskaya,  Peter Pears,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Simon Preston
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus,  Highgate School Chorus  ... 
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  • 9.
    Britten: Vocal Works
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 151642 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Henry Purcell,  Franz Schubert,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Heather Harper,  Neil Mackie,  Barry Tuckwell,  Roger Vignoles  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner,  Steuart Bedford,  Richard Armstrong,  Jeffrey Tate  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Scottish Chamber Orchestra,  Welsh National Opera Orchestra  ... 
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  • 10.
    Sacred Music - Bach, Handel, Beethoven / Klemperer
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 935402 Release Date: 08/20/2013   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Frideric Handel,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Franz Crass,  Agnes Giebel,  Nicolai Gedda,  Dame Janet Baker  ... 
    Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  BBC Chorus,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 11.
    Britten: The Masterpieces
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001880702 Release Date: 08/13/2013   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Janine Jansen,  Rachel Masters,  Gillian Saunders,  Patricia Garrod  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Paavo Järvi,  Stephen Cleobury,  George Malcolm  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra  ... 
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  • 12.
    Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex  / Stravinsky, Pears, Modl, Rohr, Krebs
    Label: Acanta/Pilz   Catalog: 233694 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Martha Mödl,  Otto Von Rohr,  Heinz Rehfuss,  Helmut Krebs  ... 
    Conductor:  Igor Stravinsky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Northwest German Radio Chorus
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  • 13.
    Britten: Albert Herring / Pears, Brannigan, Noble, Fisher, Britten, English Chamber Orchestra
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001820402 Release Date: 04/09/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Sylvia Fisher,  Johanna Peters,  April Cantelo,  John Noble  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
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  • 14.
    Britten: Spring Symphony; Hymn To St. Cecilia; Choral Dances From 'gloriana'
    Label: Heritage   Catalog: 243 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Jennifer Vyvyan,  Peter Pears,  Norma Procter
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  George Malcolm
    CD: $12.49
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  • 15.
    Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 3; Concerto For Orchestra
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001752502 Release Date: 12/11/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Witold Lutoslawski
    Performer:  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Witold Lutoslawski,  Witold Rowicki
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 16.
    Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations; Gloriana Excerpts / Rostropovich, Pears, Britten
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5025 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Aldeburgh Festival Chorus
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  • 17.
    The Voice Of Peter Pears
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1393 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Ford,  John Dowland,  Thomas Morley,  Philip Rosseter  ... 
    Performer:  Julian Bream,  Peter Pears,  Benjamin Britten
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  • 18.
    Murray Perahia - The First 40 Years
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 191256 Release Date: 11/06/2012   Number of Discs: 73
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Murray Perahia,  Michael Cox,  Leonore Smith,  Kenneth Sillito  ... 
    Conductor:  Murray Perahia,  Bernard Haitink,  Zubin Mehta,  Sir Colin Davis  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Amadeus String Quartet members  ... 
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  • 19.
    Britten: Nocturne; Mozart: Symphony No 40 / Benjamin Britten
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5083 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
    DVD: $24.99
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  • 20.
    Folk Songs Of The British Isles
    Label: Griffin   Catalog: 4078 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  Charles Jeffreys,  James L. Molloy,  Delia Murphy  ... 
    Performer:  Phyllis Spurr,  Owen Brannigan,  Gerald Moore,  Peter Pears  ... 
    Conductor:  Robert Wilson,  Hugh S. Roberton,  Bob Sharples,  Ivor E. Sims  ... 
    CD: $13.99
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  • 21.
    Label: Heritage   Catalog: 224 Release Date: 07/17/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Ford,  Philip Rosseter,  John Dowland,  Thomas Morley  ... 
    Performer:  Julian Bream,  Peter Pears,  Benjamin Britten
    CD: $12.49
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  • 22.
    Britten Rarities / Hahessy, Bowden, Procter, Pears
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4802296 Release Date: 07/03/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Henry Purcell
    Performer:  Benjamin Britten,  John Hahessy,  Michael Berkeley,  Norma Procter  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Sir David Willcocks,  Bryan Balkwill,  Walter Goehr
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir,  Cambridge University Musical Society Chorus,  Suisse Romande Orchestra  ... 
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  • 23.
    Schubert: Lieder On Record (1898-2012) [17-CD Set]
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 27575 Release Date: 07/03/2012   Number of Discs: 17
    Composer:  Franz Schubert
    Performer:  Peter Schreier,  Steven Zehr,  Thomas Hampson,  Wolfgang Sawallisch  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra
    On sale! $67.98
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  • 24.
    Magnificat - 500 Years Of Choral Masterworks [50-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001664502 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Gregorio Allegri,  Antonio Lotti,  Orlando de Lassus,  Josquin Des Préz  ... 
    Performer:  Patrick Russill,  Marinella Pennicchi,  Michael Chance,  Mark Tucker  ... 
    Conductor:  Harry Christophers,  Paul McCreesh,  Stephen Cleobury,  Edward Wickham  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players  ... 
    CD: $179.99
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  • 25.
    Folksongs / Peter Pears, Benjamin Britten
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 430063 Release Date: 04/03/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Benjamin Britten,  Peter Pears
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