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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: Saint Nicolas, Op 42 / Britten, Pears
Release Date: 09/14/2004   Label: Decca  
Catalog: 4756156   Number of Discs: 1
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Browse 1-25 of 99 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Sviatoslav Richter - Complete Decca, Philips & DG Recordings [51-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002236002 Release Date: 01/06/2015   Number of Discs: 51
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Frédéric Chopin,  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  Sviatoslav Richter,  Mikhail Kopelman,  Valentin Berlinsky,  Mstislav Rostropovich  ... 
    Conductor:  Stanislaw Wislocki,  Kurt Sanderling,  Witold Rowicki,  János Ferencsik  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Moragues Woodwind Quintet members,  Borodin String Quartet,  Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $160.49
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  • 2.
    Britten: Peter Grimes / Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002141602 Release Date: 09/16/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Peter Pears,  David [bass baritone] Kelly,  Lauris Elms,  Claire Watson  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
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  • 3.
    100 Great Symphonies
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002054602 Release Date: 06/03/2014   Number of Discs: 56
    Composer:  Giovanni Battista Sammartini,  Johann Wenzel Stamitz,  Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf,  Johann Christian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Dame Gwyneth Jones,  Hanna Schwarz,  René Kollo,  Kurt Moll  ... 
    Conductor:  Kevin Mallon,  Christopher Hogwood,  Thomas Füri,  Sir Neville Marriner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aradia Ensemble,  Academy of Ancient Music,  Camerata Bern  ... 
    On sale! $259.98
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  • 4.
    English Accents: Oboe Players In England During The 1950s
    Label: Oboe Classics   Catalog: 2027 Release Date: 01/14/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frederick Delius,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  George Frideric Handel  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Winfield,  Leonard Brain,  Sidney Sutcliffe,  Edward Selwyn  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli,  Geraint Jones,  John Minchinton,  Sir Colin Davis  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dennis Brain Wind Ensemble,  Collegium Musicum Londinii,  London Baroque Ensemble  ... 
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  • 5.
    Britten: War Requiem / Davies, Britten, Pears, Harper, Fischer-Diseskau
    Label: Testament   Catalog: 1490 Release Date: 12/10/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Heather Harper,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Meredith Davies
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Melos Ensemble London,  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,  Coventry Cathedral Choir
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  • 6.
    Decca Sound - The Analogue Years
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001934702 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 54
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Anton Bruckner,  Arnold Schoenberg,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Pascal Rogé,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Marilyn Horne,  Luciano Pavarotti  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Sir Georg Solti,  Bernard Haitink,  Horst Stein  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $169.98
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  • 7.
    BBC Legends - Great Recordings from the Archive
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5113 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  Gustav Mahler,  Dmitri Shostakovich,  Robert Schumann,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Beryl Hatt,  Agnes Giebel,  Joyce Barker,  Kerstin Meyer  ... 
    Conductor:  Jascha Horenstein,  Yevgeny Mravinsky,  Arturo Toscanini,  Kiril Kondrashin  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Orpington Junior Singers,  Goldsmiths' Choral Union  ... 
    CD: $98.99
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  • 8.
    Britten The Performer - Complete Decca Recordings
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001922102 Release Date: 10/22/2013   Number of Discs: 27
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Henry Purcell,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Franz Joseph Haydn  ... 
    Performer:  Adrian Thompson,  John Tobin,  Jenny Hill,  Robert Tear  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir,  Wandsworth School Choir  ... 
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  • 9.
    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  ... 
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  • 10.
    Britten: The Masterpieces
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001880702 Release Date: 08/13/2013   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Janine Jansen,  Rachel Masters,  Gillian Saunders,  Patricia Garrod  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  Paavo Järvi,  Stephen Cleobury,  George Malcolm  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra  ... 
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  • 11.
    Britten: Albert Herring / Pears, Brannigan, Noble, Fisher, Britten, English Chamber Orchestra
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001820402 Release Date: 04/09/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Sylvia Fisher,  Johanna Peters,  April Cantelo,  John Noble  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
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  • 12.
    Britten: Piano Concerto; Diversions; Sinfonia Da Requiem
    Label: Heritage   Catalog: 244 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Jacques Abram,  Julius Katchen
    Conductor:  Herbert Menges,  Benjamin Britten
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  • 13.
    Britten: Spring Symphony; Hymn To St. Cecilia; Choral Dances From 'gloriana'
    Label: Heritage   Catalog: 243 Release Date: 01/29/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Jennifer Vyvyan,  Peter Pears,  Norma Procter
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten,  George Malcolm
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  • 14.
    Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations; Gloriana Excerpts / Rostropovich, Pears, Britten
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5025 Release Date: 11/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Benjamin Britten
    Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Aldeburgh Festival Chorus
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  • 15.
    Britten: Nocturne; Mozart: Symphony No 40 / Benjamin Britten
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5083 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Peter Pears
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
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  • 16.
    Clifford Curzon Edition - Complete Recordings [23 CDs + DVD]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001728400 Release Date: 09/11/2012   Number of Discs: 24
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Clifford Curzon,  Irmgard Seefried,  Horst Günther,  Julius Patzak  ... 
    Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch,  George Szell,  Benjamin Britten,  Eduard Van Beinum  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  English Chamber Orchestra  ... 
    Recommendation
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  • 17.
    Britten: The Little Sweep, Cantata Academica / Britten, Malcolm
    Label: Heritage   Catalog: 236 Release Date: 07/17/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten
    Conductor:  George Malcolm,  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Chorus,  English Opera Group Orchestra
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  • 18.
    Magnificat - 500 Years Of Choral Masterworks [50-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001664502 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Gregorio Allegri,  Antonio Lotti,  Orlando de Lassus,  Josquin Des Préz  ... 
    Performer:  Patrick Russill,  Marinella Pennicchi,  Michael Chance,  Mark Tucker  ... 
    Conductor:  Harry Christophers,  Paul McCreesh,  Stephen Cleobury,  Edward Wickham  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players  ... 
    CD: $179.99
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  • 19.
    Mstislav Rostropovich - The Complete Decca Recordings  [5-CDs]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001649502 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Frank Bridge,  Claude Debussy,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Benjamin Britten,  Sviatoslav Richter
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
    CD: $34.99
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  • 20.
    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  ... 
    On sale! $77.99
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  • 21.
    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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  • 22.
    Bbc Legends: Rostropovich
    Label: Bbc Legends   Catalog: 50052 Release Date: 09/27/2011   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Aram Khachaturian,  Dmitri Shostakovich,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich
    Conductor:  George Hurst,  Sir Colin Davis,  Benjamin Britten,  Yevgeny Svetlanov  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  USSR State Radio Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 23.
    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  ... 
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  • 24.
    The Very Best Of Mstislav Rostropovich
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 94775 Release Date: 07/26/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Johannes Brahms,  Antonín Dvorák,  Robert Schumann  ... 
    Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  David Oistrakh,  Alexander Dedyukhin,  Ulrich Koch  ... 
    Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  George Szell,  Carlo Maria Giulini,  Leonard Bernstein  ... 
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  • 25.
    Benjamin Britten Conducts Benjamin Britten
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 94213 Release Date: 09/28/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Benjamin Britten,  William Byrd,  Arthur Oldham,  Michael Tippett  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
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