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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: Curlew River / Pears, Shirley-Quirk
Release Date: 10/20/1989   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 421858   Number of Discs: 1
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Britten: Saint Nicolas, Op 42 / Britten, Pears
Release Date: 09/14/2004   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 4756156   Number of Discs: 1
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Britten: Albert Herring / Pears, Fisher, Brannigan
Release Date: 04/04/1989   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 421849   Number of Discs: 2
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Originals - Britten: Peter Grimes / Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears
Release Date: 10/10/2006   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 000747802   Number of Discs: 2
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Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex / Solti, Pears, Meyer, Davies
Release Date: 04/09/2007   Label: London/Decca Enterprise  
Catalog: 430001   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 26-50 of 116 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    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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  • 27.
    Kathleen Ferrier - The Complete Decca Recordings [14 CDs + DVD]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001654200 Release Date: 03/20/2012   Number of Discs: 15
    Composer:  Christoph W. Gluck,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Franz Schubert,  Franz Xaver Gruber  ... 
    Performer:  Zoe Vlachopoulos,  Ann Ayars,  Kathleen Ferrier,  Thornton Lofthouse  ... 
    Conductor:  Fritz Stiedry,  Reginald Jacques,  Boyd Neel,  Sir John Barbirolli  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Glyndebourne Festival Chorus,  Southern Philharmonic Orchestra,  Bach Choir  ... 
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  • 28.
    Joan Sutherland: A Portrait
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 3013 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Vincenzo Bellini,  Charles Gounod  ... 
    Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Peter Pears,  Owen Brannigan,  George Malcolm
    Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult,  Anthony Lewis
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  • 29.
    Britten: Music For Voice & Guitar / Peter Pears, Julian Bream
    Label: Newton Classics   Catalog: 8802095 Release Date: 01/31/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Mátyás Seiber,  Peter Racine Fricker,  Sir William Walton
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Julian Bream
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  • 30.
    The Decca Sound - Highlights [5-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001620002 Release Date: 11/15/2011   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Béla Bartók,  Benjamin Britten,  Sergei Rachmaninov  ... 
    Performer:  Montserrat Caballé,  Luciano Pavarotti,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Renata Tebaldi  ... 
    Conductor:  Zubin Mehta,  Franco Capuana,  István Kertész,  Benjamin Britten  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  John Alldis Choir,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir  ... 
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  • 31.
    The Decca Sound [50-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001619902 Release Date: 11/15/2011   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Manuel de Falla,  Claude Debussy,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Enrique Granados  ... 
    Performer:  Teresa Berganza,  Alfredo Campoli,  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Cecilia Bartoli  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Ataulfo Argenta,  Anatole Fistoulari,  Vladimir Ashkenazy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $175.49
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  • 32.
    British Composers - Britten, Berkeley & Rubbra
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 29006 Release Date: 08/23/2011   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Edmund Rubbra,  Lennox Berkeley
    Performer:  Joan Cross,  Tom Culbert,  Peter Pears,  Denis Dowling  ... 
    Conductor:  Reginald Goodall,  Benjamin Britten,  Herbert Menges,  Norman Del Mar  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  BBC Theater Chorus,  English Opera Group  ... 
    CD: $34.99
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  • 33.
    British Composers: A Celebration
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 95480 Release Date: 05/03/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Charles Hubert Parry,  Gustav Holst,  Ralph Vaughan Williams  ... 
    Performer:  Ian Hare,  Sir Andrew Davis,  Bruce Russell,  Robert Tear  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks,  Sir Adrian Boult,  Sir Andrew Davis,  Christopher Bishop  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Choir  ... 
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  • 34.
    Britten: Serenade For Tenor, Horn & Strings; Winter Words; Seven Sonnets Of Michelangelo
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1365 Release Date: 02/22/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Dennis Brain,  Benjamin Britten
    Conductor:  Sir Eugene Goossens
    CD: $9.99
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  • 35.
    Bach: Great Choral Works / Munchinger, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
    Label: Newton Classics   Catalog: 8802001 Release Date: 07/27/2010   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Tom Krause,  Elly Ameling,  Helen Watts,  Yvonne Minton  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Münchinger
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Singakademie,  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra,  Stuttgart Hymnus Choir  ... 
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  • 36.
    Britten: Les Illuminations; War Requiem; Berg: Sieben Fruhe Lieder
    Label: Cascavelle   Catalog: 3125 Release Date: 07/13/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Alban Berg
    Performer:  Heather Harper,  Peter Pears,  Suzanne Danco,  Thomas Hemsley
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Radio Chorus,  Pro Arte Chorus
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  • 37.
    The Britten-Pears Collection [6 DVDs]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001445909 Release Date: 07/13/2010   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Traditional,  Charles Dibdin,  Henry Purcell,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Benjamin Britten,  Rae Woodland,  Anthony Williams  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Meredith Davies,  Sir Charles Mackerras
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Opera Chorus,  English Chamber Orchestra,  Ambrosian Chorus  ... 
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    DVD: $66.99
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  • 38.
    Peter Pears - An Anniversary Tribute
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001437802 Release Date: 06/22/2010   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  John Ireland,  Richard Rodney Bennett,  Frank Bridge,  Alan Bush  ... 
    Performer:  Benjamin Britten,  Peter Pears,  Joan Dickson,  Viola Tunnard  ... 
    Conductor:  Witold Lutoslawski,  Sir Colin Davis,  Benjamin Britten,  Eugen Jochum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zorian Quartet,  London Sinfonietta,  Goldsborough Orchestra  ... 
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  • 39.
    Schumann - The Masterworks [35 CDs]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001422902 Release Date: 05/25/2010   Number of Discs: 35
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Niccolň Paganini
    Performer:  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Henryk Szeryng,  Lynn Harrell,  Anne-Sophie Mutter  ... 
    Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner,  Rafael Kubelik,  Sir Georg Solti,  Uri Segal  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 40.
    Handel: L'allegro ed il penseroso, Cantatas / Watts, Willcocks, Leppard
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 433737 Release Date: 02/25/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel
    Performer:  Helen Watts,  Elizabeth Harwood,  Elsie Morison,  Jacqueline Delman  ... 
    Conductor:  Raymond Leppard,  Sir David Willcocks
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  St. Anthony Singers,  Philomusica of London
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  • 41.
    Julian Bream Edition - Music For Voice & Guitar / Julian Bream, Peter Pears
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 61601 Release Date: 02/25/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sir William Walton,  Benjamin Britten,  Peter Racine Fricker,  Mátyás Seiber
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Julian Bream
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  • 42.
    Britten At Aldeburgh - Bach: Cantatas; Purcell: Birthday Ode For Queen Mary
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 466819 Release Date: 01/28/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Henry Purcell
    Performer:  Dame Janet Baker,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Peter Pears,  John Shirley-Quirk  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Aldeburgh Festival Chorus,  Wandsworth School Choir  ... 
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  • 43.
    Britten At Aldeburgh - Mozart: Symphonies 39 & 41, Concert Arias
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 466820 Release Date: 01/28/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
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  • 44.
    Britten: Peter Grimes / Pears, Watson, Britten
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 2008 Release Date: 01/26/2010   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Jean Watson,  James Pease,  Peter Pears,  Claire Watson  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
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  • 45.
    Britten: Serenade, Winter Words, Etc / Britten, Pears
    Label: London/Decca Historic Series   Catalog: 425996 Release Date: 01/12/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Dennis Brain,  Peter Pears,  Benjamin Britten
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boyd Neel String Orchestra
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  • 46.
    Warlock - Collected 78rpm Recordings 1925-1951
    Label: Divine Art   Catalog: 27811 Release Date: 12/08/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Peter Warlock
    Performer:  Dennis Noble,  Flora Nielsen,  Rene Soames,  Billy Neeley  ... 
    Conductor:  Leslie Woodgate,  Constant Lambert,  Sir John Barbirolli,  Anthony Bernard
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Festival Singers,  Truro County Girls' School Choir,  BBC Chorus  ... 
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  • 47.
    Benjamin Britten - The Rarities
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 468811 Release Date: 10/09/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Benjamin Britten,  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Galina Vishnevskaya  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  John Iveson,  George Malcolm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir,  London Symphony Chorus,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 48.
    The Very Best Of Glyndebourne On Record - Mozart, Britten, Verdi, Stravinsky, Monteverdi, Rossini, Lehar, Etc
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 64218 Release Date: 04/21/2009   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  John Gay,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Benjamin Britten,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Redgrave,  Constance Willis,  Audrey Mildmay,  Roy Henderson  ... 
    Conductor:  Michael Muddie,  Fritz Busch,  Reginald Goodall,  Sir Thomas Beecham  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Glyndebourne Festival Chorus,  Glyndebourne Festival Orchestra,  English Opera Group Orchestra  ... 
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  • 49.
    Britten: Spring Symphony, Cantata Academica, Etc / Britten
    Label: London/Decca British Collection   Catalog: 425153 Release Date: 02/18/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Jennifer Vyvyan,  Norma Procter,  Peter Pears,  Owen Brannigan  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  George Malcolm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus,  Emmanuel School Boys Chorus  ... 
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 50.
    The Hidden Heart - A Life Of Benjamin Britten And Peter Pears
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 16571 Release Date: 02/10/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Robert Tear,  James Gilchrist,  Galina Vishnevskaya,  Peter Pears  ... 
    Conductor:  Rupert Jeffcoatt,  Benjamin Britten
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