Benjamin Britten

Biography

Born: 1913   Died: 1976   Country: England   Period: 20th Century
With the arrival of Benjamin Britten on the international music scene, many felt that English music gained its greatest genius since Purcell. A composer of wide-ranging talents, Britten found in the human voice an especial source of inspiration, an affinity that resulted in a remarkable body of work, ranging from operas like Peter Grimes (1944-1945) and Death in Venice (1973) to song cycles like the Serenade for tenor, horn, and strings (1943) to Read more the massive choral work War Requiem (1961). He also produced much music for orchestra and chamber ensembles, including symphonies, concerti, and chamber and solo works. Britten's father was a prosperous oral surgeon in the town of Lowestoft, Suffolk; his mother was a leader in the local choral society. When Benjamin's musical aptitude became evident, the family engaged composer Frank Bridge to supervise his musical education. Bridge's tutelage was one of the formative and lasting influences on Britten's compositional development; Britten eventually paid tribute to his teacher in his Op. 10, the Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge (1937). Britten's formal training also included studies at the Royal College of Music (1930-1933).

Upon graduation from the RCM, Britten obtained a position scoring documentaries (on prosaic themes like "Sorting Office") for the Royal Post Office film unit. Working on a tight budget, he learned how to extract the maximum variety of color and musical effectiveness from the smallest combinations of instruments, producing dozens of such scores from 1935 to 1938. He rapidly emerged as the most promising British composer of his generation and entered into collaborative relationships that exerted a profound influence upon his creative life. Among the most important of his professional associates were literary figures like W.H. Auden, and later, E.M. Forster. None, however, played as central a role in Britten's life as the tenor Peter Pears, who was Britten's closest intimate, both personally and professionally, from the late '30s to the composer's death. Pears' voice inspired a number of Britten's vocal cycles and opera roles, and the two often joined forces in song recitals and, from 1948, in the organization and administration of the Aldeburgh Festival.

A steadfast pacifist, Britten left England in 1939 as war loomed over Europe. He spent four years in the United States and Canada, his compositional pace barely slackening, as evidenced by the production of works like the Sinfonia da Requiem (1940), the song cycle Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo (1940), and his first effort for the stage, Paul Bunyan (1940-1941). Eventually, the poetry of George Crabbe drew Britten back to England. With a Koussevitzky Commission backing him, the composer wrote the enormously successful opera Peter Grimes (1944-45), which marked the greatest turning point in his career. His fame secure, Britten over the next several decades wrote a dozen more operas, several of which -- Albert Herring (1947), Billy Budd (1951), The Turn of the Screw (1954), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960), Death in Venice (1973) -- became instant and permanent fixtures of the repertoire. He also continued to produce much vocal, orchestral, and chamber music, including Songs and Proverbs of William Blake (1965), the three Cello Suites (1961-1964) and the Cello Symphony (1963), written for Mstislav Rostropovich, and the Third String Quartet (1975).

Britten suffered a stroke during heart surgery in 1971, which resulted in something of a slowdown in his creative activities. Nonetheless, he continued to compose until his death in 1976, by which time he was recognized as one of the principal musical figures of the twentieth century. Read less
Britten: Les Illuminations; Variations, Op 10; Serenade, Op. 31 / Thompson, Hannigan, Gilchrist, Amsterdam Sinfonietta
Release Date: 02/12/2013   Label: Channel Classics  
Catalog: 32213   Number of Discs: 1
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La Mer - Debussy, Britten, Mercuren / Nezet-seguin, Et Al
Release Date: 10/30/2007   Label: Atma Classique  
Catalog: 2549   Number of Discs: 1
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Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No 2;  Britten: Cello Suite No 3 / Wispelwey, Hempel, Sinfonia Cracovia
Release Date: 09/09/2008   Label: Channel Classics  
Catalog: 25308   Number of Discs: 1
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Britten: Suites For Violoncello Solo / Pieter Wispelwey
Release Date: 05/14/2002   Label: Channel Classics  
Catalog: 17102   Number of Discs: 1
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Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Britten / Wispelwey, Lazic
Release Date: 09/09/2003   Label: Channel Classics  
Catalog: 20098   Number of Discs: 1
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Composition Type: Choral

Work: War Requiem, Op. 66

Browse 1-25 of 27 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Simon Rattle - The CBSO Years
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 552758 Release Date: 10/09/2015   Number of Discs: 52
    Composer:  Leos Janácek,  Benjamin Britten,  Kurt Weill,  Ralph Vaughan Williams  ... 
    Performer:  Felicity Palmer,  Ameral Gunson,  John Mitchinson,  Malcolm King  ... 
    Conductor:  Simon Rattle
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,  City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus,  Christ Church Cathedral Choir Men and Boys  ... 
    CD: $124.49
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  • 2.
    Seiji Ozawa - The Philips Years: Original Jacket Collection [50-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002185602 Release Date: 11/18/2014   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Hector Berlioz  ... 
    Performer:  Mariko Kobayashi,  Everett Firth,  Hiroshi Arimori,  Sawako Yasue  ... 
    Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Saito Kinen Orchestra,  Ambrosian Singers  ... 
    Recommendation
    CD: $168.49
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  • 3.
    Britten: War Requiem / Netrebko, Bostridge, Hampson, Pappano
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 15448 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Anna Netrebko,  Ian Bostridge,  Thomas Hampson
    Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
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  • 4.
    Britten: War Requiem / Magee, Padmore, Gerhaher, Jansons
    Label: Br Klassik   Catalog: 900120 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Mark Padmore,  Emily Magee,  Max Hanft,  Christian Gerhaher
    Conductor:  Mariss Jansons
    CD: $37.49
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  • 5.
    Britten: War Requiem / Gritton, Ainsley, Mccreesh
    Label: Signum U.k.   Catalog: 340 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Christopher Maltman,  Susan Gritton,  John Mark Ainsley
    Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
    Recommendation
    CD: $25.49
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  • 6.
    Britten: War Requiem / Britten, Vishnevskaya, Pears [2-CDs & Blu-ray Audio]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001895702 Release Date: 09/17/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    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  ... 
    Recommendation
    CD: $36.99
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  • 7.
    Britten: War Requiem / Ancerl, Czech Philharmonic, Prague Philharmonic Choir
    Label: Supraphon   Catalog: 4135 Release Date: 07/30/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Nadezda Kniplova,  Gerald English,  John Cameron,  Milada Subrtova  ... 
    Conductor:  Karel Ancerl
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra,  Prague Philharmonic Choir
    CD: $24.99
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  • 8.
    Helmuth Rilling - Personal Selection
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 98008 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  César Franck,  Benjamin Britten,  Franz Joseph Haydn  ... 
    Performer:  Juliane Banse,  Ingeborg Danz,  James Taylor,  Andreas Schmidt  ... 
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Bach Collegium,  Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart,  Aurelius Boys Choir of Calw  ... 
    CD: $64.49
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  • 9.
    Britten: War Requiem / Nelsons,  City Of Birmingham Symphony
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 101659 Release Date: 10/30/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Erin Wall,  Mark Padmore,  Hanno Müller-Brachmann
    Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,  City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus
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  • 10.
    Britten: War Requiem / Nelsons,  City Of Birmingham Symphony [blu-ray]
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 108070 Release Date: 10/30/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Erin Wall,  Mark Padmore,  Hanno Müller-Brachmann
    Conductor:  Andris Nelsons
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,  City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus
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    Blu-ray Video: $39.99
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  • 11.
    Britten: War Requiem / Jaap Van Zweden, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
    Label: Challenge   Catalog: 72388 Release Date: 09/11/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Evelina Dobraceva,  Anthony Dean Griffey,  Mark Stone
    Conductor:  Reinbert De Leeuw,  Jaap Van Zweden
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra,  Netherlands Radio Choir
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  • 12.
    Britten: War Requiem / Noseda, Bostridge,  Keenlyside, Cvilak
    Label: Lso Live   Catalog: 719 Release Date: 05/08/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Simon Keenlyside,  Ian Bostridge,  Sabina Cvilak
    Conductor:  Gianandrea Noseda
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Eltham College Choir
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  • 13.
    Benjamin Britten: War Requiem
    Label: Helicon   Catalog: 9645 Release Date: 11/08/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Edith Wiens,  Nigel Robson,  Hĺkan Hagegĺrd
    Conductor:  Kurt Masur
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra,  Czech Philharmonic Choir,  Ankor Children's Chorus
    On sale! $34.98
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  • 14.
    Britten: War Requiem / Gardiner, Orgonasova, Rolfe Johnson, Skovhus
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 437801 Release Date: 03/10/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Jürgen Lamke,  Bo Skovhus,  Anthony Rolfe Johnson,  Luba Orgonasova
    Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tölz Boys Choir,  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  North German Radio Chorus Hamburg  ... 
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  • 15.
    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
    Recommendation
    On sale! $30.98
    CD: $26.99
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  • 16.
    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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  • 17.
    Bach, Handel, Haydn, Britten: Arias From Cantatas & Oratorios / Schreier
    Label: Berlin Classics   Catalog: 1328 Release Date: 07/08/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Frideric Handel,  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Benjamin Britten,  Johann Sebastian Bach
    Performer:  Peter Schreier
    CD: $17.99
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  • 18.
    Britten: War Requiem / Rilling, Dasch, Taylor, Gerhaher, Et Al
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 98507 Release Date: 06/10/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Annette Dasch,  James Taylor,  Christian Gerhaher
    Conductor:  Helmuth Rilling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Festival Ensemble,  Aurelius Boys Choir of Calw
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  • 19.
    Britten: War Requiem / Curtin, Di Virgilio, Krause, Leinsdorf
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4429 Release Date: 08/28/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Nicholas Di Virgilio,  Phyllis Curtin,  Tom Krause
    Conductor:  Erich Leinsdorf
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Pro Musica Chorus,  Columbus Boychoir
    DVD: $28.99
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  • 20.
    Britten: War Requiem / Masur, Lpo, Et Al
    Label: Lpo   Catalog: 10 Release Date: 07/25/2006   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Anthony Dean Griffey,  Gerald Finley,  Christine Brewer
    Conductor:  Neville Creed,  Kurt Masur,  Simon Toyne
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Choir,  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Tiffin School Boys Chorus
    CD: $24.99
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  • 21.
    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  ... 
    CD: $24.99
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  • 22.
    Britten: War Requiem;  Berg: Violin Concerto;  Penderecki
    Label: Berlin Classics   Catalog: 1012 Release Date: 10/01/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Alban Berg,  Krzysztof Penderecki,  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Manfred Scherzer,  Anthony Roden,  Theo Adam,  Hansjürgen Scholze  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert Kegel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra,  Leipzig Radio Orchestra,  Leipzig Radio Chorus  ... 
    CD: $22.49
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  • 23.
    Britten: War Requiem / Shafer, Washington Chorus, Et Al
    Label: Gothic Records   Catalog: 49241 Release Date: 05/10/2005   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Christine Goerke,  Richard Clement,  Richard Stilwell
    Conductor:  Robert Shafer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Washington Chorus,  National Symphony, Washington, D. C.,  Shenandoah Conservatory Choir  ... 
    CD: $24.99
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  • 24.
    Britten: War Requiem, Sinfonia Da Requiem, Etc / Hickox, Etc
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 5007 Release Date: 04/22/2003   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Martyn Hill,  John Shirley-Quirk,  Philip Langridge,  Roderick Elms  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Hickox
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus,  St. Paul's Cathedral Choir
    SuperAudio CD: $39.99
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  • 25.
    Britten: War Requiem / Brabbins, Bbc Scottish Symphony
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8553558-59 Release Date: 11/05/1996   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Lynda Russell,  Thomas Randle,  Michael Volle,  George McPhee
    Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra,  Scottish Festival Chorus,  Edinburgh St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral Choir
    CD: $25.49
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