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 26-50 of 91 Available Recordings
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  • 26.
    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
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  • 27.
    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:  Suzanne Danco,  Thomas Hemsley,  Peter Pears,  Heather Harper  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Suisse Romande Radio Chorus,  Pro Arte Chorus
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  • 28.
    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: $65.99
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  • 29.
    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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  • 30.
    Julian Bream Edition - Music For Voice & Guitar / Julian Bream, Peter Pears
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 61601 Release Date: 02/17/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sir William Walton,  Benjamin Britten,  Peter Racine Fricker,  Mátyás Seiber
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Julian Bream
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  • 31.
    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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  • 32.
    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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  • 33.
    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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  • 34.
    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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  • 35.
    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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  • 36.
    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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  • 37.
    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  ... 
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  • 38.
    Elgar: The Dream Of Gerontius;  Holst: The Hymn Of Jesus
    Label: London/Decca British Collection   Catalog: 421381 Release Date: 01/30/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Gustav Holst
    Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk,  Peter Pears,  Yvonne Minton
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Sir Adrian Boult
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus,  BBC Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 39.
    Benjamin Britten - The Collector's Edition
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 17526 Release Date: 11/24/2008   Number of Discs: 37
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Andrew Mead,  Jill Gomez,  Norman Bailey,  Penelope Walker  ... 
    Conductor:  Reginald Goodall,  Richard Hickox,  Daniel Harding,  Bernard Haitink  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Trinity Boys Choir,  City of London Sinfonia,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus  ... 
    On sale! $157.98
    CD: $132.49
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  • 40.
    Salute To Percy Grainger / Pears, Britten
    Label: London/Decca British Collection   Catalog: 425159 Release Date: 09/16/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Percy Aldridge Grainger
    Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk,  Peter Pears,  Benjamin Britten,  Viola Tunnard
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Steuart Bedford
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Ambrosian Singers,  Linden Singers
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  • 41.
    Britten: Albert Herring / Britten, English Opera Group
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 5824 Release Date: 09/09/2008   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Otakar Kraus,  Gladys Parr,  Margaret Ritchie,  Anne Sharp  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Opera Group Orchestra,  English Opera Group
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  • 42.
    Britten: Spring Symphony / Britten
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 436396 Release Date: 09/02/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  George Malcolm,  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus
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  • 43.
    Purcell: Fairy Queen, Dido And Aeneas / Britten, Bedford
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 468561 Release Date: 09/02/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Henry Purcell
    Performer:  Norma Burrowes,  Mary Wells,  Ian Partridge,  Charles Brett  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Steuart Bedford
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ambrosian Opera Chorus,  English Chamber Orchestra,  London Opera Chorus  ... 
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  • 44.
    Britten: Peter Grimes / Pears, Harper, Britten
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001147709 Release Date: 07/08/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Elizabeth Bainbridge,  Owen Brannigan,  Robert Tear  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 45.
    Sir William Walton - Legendary Recordings
    Label: Alto Records   Catalog: 1026 Release Date: 04/15/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sir William Walton
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Edith Sitwell,  Sir Malcolm Sargent
    Conductor:  Anthony Collins,  Sir Malcolm Sargent
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Opera Group Ensemble Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 46.
    Label: Opus Kura   Catalog: 7034 Release Date: 01/22/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Lennox Berkeley,  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Dennis Brain,  Peter Pears,  Manoug Parikian,  Colin Horsley
    Conductor:  Sir Eugene Goossens,  Boyd Neel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra Strings,  Boyd Neel Orchestra
    On sale! $18.98
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  • 47.
    Handel: Acis & Galatea Scenes / Sutherland, Boult, Et Al
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 3147 Release Date: 01/15/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel
    Performer:  Owen Brannigan,  Peter Pears,  David Galliver,  Dame Joan Sutherland
    Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philomusica of London,  St. Anthony Singers
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  • 48.
    Bach: St. Matthew Passion / Munchinger, Pears, Prey, Wunderlich
    Label: London/Decca Jubilee   Catalog: 414057 Release Date: 12/26/2007   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Elly Ameling,  Marga Höffgen,  Heinz Wunderlich,  Tom Krause  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Münchinger
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Hymnus Boys Choir,  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
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  • 49.
    Britten: Spring Symphony, Etc / Van Beinum, Ferrier, Pears
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 440063 Release Date: 12/10/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier,  Jo Vincent,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Eduard Van Beinum
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Willibrod Boy's Choir,  Netherlands Radio Choir,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
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  • 50.
    Elizabethan Lute Songs / Pears, Bream
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 444524 Release Date: 12/10/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Ford,  Thomas Morley,  Philip Rosseter,  John Dowland
    Performer:  Julian Bream,  Peter Pears
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