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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
Britten: Saint Nicolas, Op 42 / Britten, Pears
Release Date: 09/14/2004   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 4756156   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 101-117 of 117 Available Recordings
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  • 101.
    Britten: Billy Budd
    Label: Vai Audio   Catalog: 1034 Release Date: 01/31/1995   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Theodor Uppman,  David Tree,  Inia Te Wiata,  William Mcalpine  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
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  • 102.
    Bach: Mass In B Minor, Mass In F / Jochum, Redel
    Label: Philips Duo   Catalog: 438739 Release Date: 03/15/1994   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Agnes Giebel,  Gisela Litz,  Hermann Prey,  Peter Pears  ... 
    Conductor:  Kurt Redel,  Eugen Jochum
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Munich Pro Arte Orchestra,  Lausanne Pro Arte Chorus,  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 103.
    Britten: Serenade, Les Illuminations / Britten, Pears
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 436395 Release Date: 09/07/1993   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 104.
    Britten: Owen Wingrave / Britten, Pears, Luxon, Baker, Et Al
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 433200 Release Date: 08/10/1993   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Benjamin Luxon,  Nigel Douglas,  Heather Harper,  Dame Janet Baker  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir
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  • 105.
    Nordheim: Orchestral And Vocal Works
    Label: Contemporary   Catalog: 4931 Release Date: 01/24/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arne Nordheim
    Performer:  David Stranger,  Peter Pears,  Peter Lloyd
    Conductor:  Per Dreier
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 106.
    Britten: War Requiem / Britten, Vishnevskaya, Pears
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 414383 Release Date: 10/25/1990   Number of Discs: 2
    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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  • 107.
    Puccini: Turandot / Mehta, Sutherland, Pavarotti, Caballé
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 414274 Release Date: 10/25/1990   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Luciano Pavarotti,  Nicolai Ghiaurov  ... 
    Conductor:  Zubin Mehta
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir,  John Alldis Choir,  London Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 108.
    Britten: Saint Nicolas, Rejoice In The Lamb / Britten
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 425714 Release Date: 05/16/1990   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  David Hemmings,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aldeburgh Festival Orchestra,  Aldeburgh Festival Chorus
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  • 109.
    Britten: The Canticles / Tuckwell, Pears, Bowman
    Label: London/Decca British Collection   Catalog: 4257162 Release Date: 05/07/1990   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Benjamin Britten,  James Bowman,  Osian Ellis,  Peter Pears  ... 
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  • 110.
    Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream / Britten, London So
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 425663 Release Date: 03/30/1990   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Stephen Terry,  Elizabeth Harwood,  Helen Watts,  Owen Brannigan  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 111.
    Britten: Death In Venice / Bedford, Pears, Shirley-quirk
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4256692 Release Date: 02/07/1990   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  James Bowman,  Kenneth Bowen,  Stuart Harling,  Michael Bauer  ... 
    Conductor:  Steuart Bedford
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Opera Group members,  English Chamber Orchestra
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  • 112.
    Britten: The Turn Of The Screw / Britten, English Opera
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 425672 Release Date: 02/07/1990   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Olive Dyer,  David Hemmings,  Peter Pears,  Arda Mandikian  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Opera Group Orchestra
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  • 113.
    Britten: Curlew River / Pears, Shirley-Quirk
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 421858 Release Date: 10/20/1989   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk,  Peter Pears,  Harold Blackburn,  Bryan Drake
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Group
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  • 114.
    Bach: St Matthew Passion / Klemperer, Pears, Ludwig, Et Al
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 63058 Release Date: 06/16/1989   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Christa Ludwig,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Nicolai Gedda  ... 
    Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hampstead Parish Church Boys' Choir,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Philharmonia Chorus
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  • 115.
    Britten: Cello Symphony, Sinfonia Da Requiem, Etc / Britten
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4251002 Release Date: 05/05/1989   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Peter Pears,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  National Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 116.
    Britten: Albert Herring / Pears, Fisher, Brannigan
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 421849 Release Date: 04/04/1989   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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  • 117.
    Schumann: Szenen Aus Goethes Faust / Britten, Fischer-Dieskau
    Label: London/Decca Jubilee   Catalog: 425705 Release Date: 01/01/1980   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Robert Schumann
    Performer:  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Elizabeth Harwood,  Peter Pears,  John Shirley-Quirk
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
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