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 76-35 of 35 Available Recordings
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  • 76.
    Legendary British Performers / Various
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 88461 Release Date: 04/24/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn,  Enrique Granados,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Henry Purcell  ... 
    Performer:  Jacqueline Du Pré,  Iris Du Pré,  Mark Deller,  Alfred Deller  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra,  Melos Ensemble London
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  • 77.
    Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex / Solti, Pears, Meyer, Davies
    Label: London/Decca Enterprise   Catalog: 430001 Release Date: 04/09/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Benjamin Luxon,  Stafford Dean,  Donald McIntyre,  Alec McGowan  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  John Alldis Choir
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  • 78.
    Heavenly Love, Earthly Joy / Bream, Pears
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 704927 Release Date: 01/16/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Morley,  Philip Rosseter,  John Dowland,  Thomas Ford
    Performer:  Julian Bream,  Peter Pears
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  • 79.
    Originals - Britten: Peter Grimes / Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000747802 Release Date: 10/10/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Iris Kells,  Claire Watson,  Jean Watson,  Raymond Nilsson  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
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  • 80.
    Igor Stravinsky Conducts His Own Works - Apollo, Etc
    Label: Music & Arts Programs Of America   Catalog: 1184 Release Date: 05/30/2006   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  Helmut Krebs,  Heinz Rehfuss,  Werner Hessenland,  Peter Pears  ... 
    Conductor:  Igor Stravinsky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Northwest German Radio Chorus,  Baden-Baden Southwest German Radio Wind Quintet
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  • 81.
    Britten: Serenade, Les Illuminations, Nocturne / Pears, Brain, Britten
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4768470 Release Date: 05/23/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Dennis Brain,  Willie Anthony Waters,  Osian Ellis  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Eugene Goossens,  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
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  • 82.
    Britten: Song Cycles / Bowman, Pears, Shirley-Quirk, Britten
    Label: Eloquence   Catalog: 4768492 Release Date: 05/23/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  James Bowman,  Benjamin Britten,  John Shirley-Quirk,  Peter Pears
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  • 83.
    Britten Conducts Britten Vol 3
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000639602 Release Date: 05/16/2006   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Bryan Drake,  John Shirley-Quirk,  Robert Tear,  Peter Pears  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  George Malcolm,  Norman Del Mar,  Russell Burgess
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Opera Group Orchestra,  English Chamber Group,  Alleyn's School Choir  ... 
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  • 84.
    Britten: War Requiem / Britten, London Symphony
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000638902 Release Date: 05/16/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Simon Preston,  Galina Vishnevskaya,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Chorus,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Highgate School Chorus  ... 
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  • 85.
    Holnd Fstvl - A Dutch Miracle - Fifty Years - 1947-1997
    Label: Globe   Catalog: 6900 Release Date: 05/09/2006   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Gioachino Rossini,  Rudolf Escher,  Richard Strauss,  Manuel de Falla  ... 
    Performer:  Renato Capecchi,  Teresa Berganza,  Giulietta Simionato,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf  ... 
    Conductor:  Carlo Maria Giulini,  George Szell,  Jean Fournet,  Kiril Kondrashin  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hague Residentie Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus,  Danzi Woodwind Quintet  ... 
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  • 86.
    Mozart: Concertos & Arias / Gulda, Szeryng, Et Al
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 93129 Release Date: 05/09/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Friedrich Gulda,  Henryk Szeryng,  Dennis Brain,  Suzanne Danco  ... 
    Conductor:  Hans Rosbaud
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
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  • 87.
    Ariadne - Bach: Mass In B Minor / Enescu, Bbc Chorus, Et Al
    Label: Somm   Catalog: 5000 Release Date: 04/25/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Norman Walker,  Douglas [French Horn] Moore,  Maurice Clare,  Charles Spinks  ... 
    Conductor:  George Enescu,  Sir Malcolm Sargent,  Reginald Jacques
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Chorus,  Boyd Neel Orchestra,  New Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 88.
    Kathleen Ferrier And Friends - Handel, Bach, Et Al
    Label: Pearl   Catalog: 229 Release Date: 02/21/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Georg Philipp Telemann,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier,  George Roth,  John Francis,  Millicent Silver  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Malcolm Sargent,  Boyd Neel,  Bruno Walter,  Sir John Barbirolli
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Boyd Neel Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 89.
    The Age Of Gold
    Label: Pearl   Catalog: 227 Release Date: 07/26/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frank Martin,  Michael Tippett,  Paul Hindemith,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  Benjamin Britten,  Peter Pears,  Noel Mewton-Wood,  Dennis Brain
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  • 90.
    Gay/Britten: The Beggar's Opera / Britten, Pears, Et Al
    Label: Pearl   Catalog: 225 Release Date: 04/26/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Gay
    Performer:  Norman Platt,  Otakar Kraus,  Rose Hill,  Jennifer Vyvyan  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Opera Group Orchestra
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  • 91.
    Britten Conducts Britten Operas Vol 2
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000410202 Release Date: 03/15/2005   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Elizabeth Harwood,  Dame Janet Baker,  Philip Langridge,  John Shirley-Quirk  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Benjamin Britten,  Steuart Bedford
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  English Chamber Orchestra,  Welsh National Opera Orchestra  ... 
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  • 92.
    Facets Of Benjamin Britten
    Label: Pearl   Catalog: 220 Release Date: 10/19/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Benjamin Britten,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Amadeus String Quartet
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  • 93.
    Britten Conducts Britten Operas Vol 1
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000321302 Release Date: 10/12/2004   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  James Pease,  Raymond Nilsson,  David [bass baritone] Kelly,  Lauris Elms  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 94.
    Puccini: Bohčme, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, Turandot/Pavarotti
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000334802 Release Date: 10/12/2004   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Elizabeth Harwood,  Luciano Pavarotti,  Gianni Maffeo,  Rolando Panerai  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Nicola Rescigno,  Zubin Mehta
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Deutsche Oper Chorus,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Schöneberg Boys Choir  ... 
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  • 95.
    Britten: Saint Nicolas, Op 42 / Britten, Pears
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 4756156 Release Date: 09/14/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  David Hemmings
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aldeburgh Festival Orchestra,  Aldeburgh Festival Chorus
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  • 96.
    Benjamin Britten In Rehearsal & Performance
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4277 Release Date: 08/31/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  C. B. C. Vancouver Chamber Orchestra
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  • 97.
    British Music Collection - Elgar / Britten, Marriner, Et Al
    Label: Philips   Catalog: 473249 Release Date: 04/13/2004   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar
    Performer:  Bryn Terfel,  Alison Hagley,  Della Jones,  Peter Pears  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Sir Neville Marriner,  Rodney Bashford,  Sir Georg Solti  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra,  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Grenadier Guards Band  ... 
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  • 98.
    The British Music Collection - Britten: Serenade, Folksongs; Walton: Façade
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000199902 Release Date: 03/09/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sir William Walton,  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Edith Sitwell,  Benjamin Britten,  Dennis Brain
    Conductor:  Anthony Collins,  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Opera Group,  Boyd Neel String Orchestra
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  • 99.
    The Voice of Opera - Tebaldi, Horne, Pavarotti...
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 000024602 Release Date: 05/13/2003   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  George Gershwin,  Richard Strauss,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  Roberta Alexander,  Simon Estes,  Helen Donath  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Leonard Slatkin,  Sir Georg Solti,  Eugen Jochum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 100.
    Britten: The Rape Of Lucretia, Phaedra / Baker, Bedford, Britten
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 425666 Release Date: 04/08/2003   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk,  Bryan Drake,  Dame Janet Baker,  Elisabeth Bainbridge  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Steuart Bedford
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
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