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: Peter Grimes / Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears
Release Date: 09/16/2014   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 002141602   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 101-35 of 35 Available Recordings
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  • 101.
    Britten: Favorite Folk Song Arrangements / Pears, Britten
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4672362 Release Date: 01/07/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Benjamin Britten
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  • 102.
    Bach: St Matthew Passion / Klemperer, Pears, Ludwig, Et Al
    Label: Emi Great Recordings Of The Century   Catalog: 67542 Release Date: 04/10/2001   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Otakar Kraus,  Sir Geraint Evans,  Helen Watts  ... 
    Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hampstead Parish Church Boys' Choir,  Philharmonia Chorus,  Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 103.
    Britten: Les Illuminataions, Etc /Barbirolli, Pears, Britten
    Label: Nmc   Catalog: 30 Release Date: 09/15/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Benjamin Britten,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli,  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  Columbia Symphony Orchestra
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  • 104.
    Legends - Schubert: Winterreise / Pears, Britten
    Label: London/Decca Legends   Catalog: 466382 Release Date: 07/18/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Schubert
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Benjamin Britten
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  • 105.
    Vaughan Williams - Symphonies No 4 & 5, Etc / Barbirolli
    Label: Pearl   Catalog: 62 Release Date: 10/19/1999   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Cecil Sharp
    Performer:  Benjamin Britten,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Boyd Neel,  Sir John Barbirolli
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Singers of London,  National Folk Dance Orchestra,  Zorian Quartet  ... 
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  • 106.
    Britten: The Burning Fiery Furnace / Pears, Drake, Shirley-Quirk, Tear
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 414663 Release Date: 05/25/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Bryan Drake,  John Shirley-Quirk,  Peter Pears,  Robert Tear  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Opera Group Orchestra
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  • 107.
    Britten: The Prodigal Son
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 425713 Release Date: 05/25/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  John Shirley-Quirk,  Robert Tear,  Bryan Drake
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Opera Group Orchestra
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  • 108.
    Murray Perahia - 25th Anniversary Edition
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 63380 Release Date: 11/18/1997   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Johannes Brahms,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Murray Perahia,  Martin Lovett,  Peter Schidlof,  Norbert Brainin  ... 
    Conductor:  Zubin Mehta,  Murray Perahia
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra,  Chamber Orchestra of Europe,  Amadeus String Quartet members  ... 
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  • 109.
    Szymanowski: Symphonies 2 & 3 Etc;  Lutoslawski / Dorati
    Label: London/Decca Double Decker   Catalog: 448258 Release Date: 10/14/1997   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Witold Lutoslawski,  Karol Szymanowski
    Performer:  Peter Jablonski,  Peter Pears,  Chantal Juillet,  Ryszard Karczykowski
    Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi,  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Witold Lutoslawski,  Paul Kletzki  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Sinfonietta  ... 
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  • 110.
    Bach J.s: St Matthew Passion (Highlights)
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4614582 Release Date: 06/30/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Tom Krause,  Marga Höffgen,  Hermann Prey,  Peter Pears  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Münchinger
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra,  Stuttgart Hymnus Boys Choir
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  • 111.
    Bach: Christmas Oratorio / Münchinger, Ameling
    Label: London/Decca Double Decker   Catalog: 455410 Release Date: 06/30/1997   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Elly Ameling,  Peter Pears,  Tom Krause,  Helen Watts
    Conductor:  Karl Münchinger
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lübeck Kantorei,  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
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  • 112.
    Berlioz: L'Enfance du Christ / Davis, Morison, Pears
    Label: London/Decca Double Decker   Catalog: 443461 Release Date: 06/10/1997   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz
    Performer:  Anne Pashley,  John [baritone (50s)] Cameron,  Joseph Rouleau,  Elsie Morison  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Anthony Singers,  English Chamber Orchestra,  Goldsborough Orchestra
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  • 113.
    Schubert: Lieder / Raskin, Te Kanawa, Ameling, Blegen
    Label: Sony Classical Essential Classics   Catalog: 62422 Release Date: 04/16/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Schubert
    Performer:  Dalton Baldwin,  Peter Pears,  Elly Ameling,  Gervase de Peyer  ... 
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  • 114.
    Elgar: Dream Of Gerontius;  Holst, Delius / Britten, Et Al
    Label: London/Decca Double Decker   Catalog: 448170 Release Date: 12/04/1995   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Frederick Delius,  Gustav Holst
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  John Shirley-Quirk,  Yvonne Minton
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Richard Hickox,  Sir Adrian Boult
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir,  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus  ... 
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  • 115.
    Bach: St John Passion / Britten, Pears, Howell, Harper Et Al
    Label: London/Decca Double Decker   Catalog: 443859 Release Date: 06/13/1995   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Adrian Thompson,  John Tobin,  Jenny Hill,  Robert Tear  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir
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  • 116.
    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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  • 117.
    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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  • 118.
    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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  • 119.
    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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  • 120.
    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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  • 121.
    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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  • 122.
    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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  • 123.
    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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  • 124.
    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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  • 125.
    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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