Benjamin Britten

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to Benjamin Britten: Peter Pears

Britten, Benjamin


Born Nov. 22, 1913, in Lowestoft, England. English composer, pianist, conductor, and prominent musical and public figure.

Britten is the most outstanding representative of contemporary English music. In 1925 he began studying composition with F. Bridge and from 1929 to 1933 attended the Royal College of Music in London, studying composition with J. Ireland and piano with A. Benjamin. He made his debut as a composer at the Festival of Contemporary Music in Florence in 1934. He was one of the founders and the manager of the English Opera Group, a small operatic group of the London Covent Garden Theater (from 1947) with whom he performed in the USSR in 1964. He was also manager of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. His work brought about the revival of the British musical theater. He has written 11 operas, including Peter Grimes (1945), Albert Herring (1947), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1960); a new version of the comic Beggar’s Opera by John Gay and Pepusch (1948); the children’s opera Let’s Make an Opera! (1949); and the ballet The Prince of the Pagodas (produced in 1957). His greatest achievements have been in chamber opera—for example, The Turn of the Screw (1954).

Britten’s stage music is characterized by its striking national characteristics, sharp dramatic clashes, the depth of psychological aspects, and the variety of musical means of expression; the vocal parts have both melodic and harsh, raw effects. Britten’s musical style characteristically combines the tradition of the 17th and 18th centuries. (H. Purcell, J. S. Bach, and others) with supermodern musical effects (War Requiem for solo voices, mixed choir, boys’ choir, symphony orchestra, and organ; 1961). Among his other vocal-symphonic works are Ballad About Heroes (1939), dedicated to those who fought in the International Brigade in Spain, and the Cantata Misericordium. His orchestral works include Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge; Sinfonia da Requiem (1940); Sinfonietta for Chamber Orchestra (1932); concerti (two for piano and one for violin with orchestra); and a symphony for cello with orchestra, dedicated to M. Rostropovich (1963).

Britten composed chamber instrumental pieces and many vocal compositions—the song cycles The Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo (1940) and songs composed on Pushkin’s words, dedicated to G. Vishnevskaia (1965), for example. He has accompanied the singer P. Pears (also in the USSR). Britten has composed arrangements of works by Purcell and of English, Scottish, and French folk songs. He also composes for the theater, motion pictures, and radio. Britten has conducted in the USSR on many occasions (first visit, 1963).


The Story of Music. London, 1958. (With I. Hoist.)


Tauragis, A. B. Britten. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
Holst, I. Bendzhamin Britten. Moscow, 1968. (With bibliography; translated from English.)
White, E. W. B. Britten. London, 1954.
B. Britten: A Complete Catalogue of His Works. London, 1963.
Young, P. B. Britten. London, 1966.
References in periodicals archive ?
Another contributor to Benjamin Britten: New Perspectives on his Life and Work is Clare Seymour, whose 2004 book, The Operas of Benjamin Britten, can also not go without a brief mention.
Benjamin Britten, who would have been 100 today, conducting in his prime
uk Lunchtime recital, Glanfa Stage, Wales Millennium Centre, 1pm Soprano Jennifer Walker and harpist Bethan Semmens present a free lunchtime recital of music by Benjamin Britten and his contemporaries.
Such was the case in this terrific Autumn in Malvern Festival concert by the St Petersburg String Quartet, which placed centenary tributes to Benjamin Britten alongside works by Shostakovich and Purcell.
Yarm Primary's Singing Club will join other schools from across the region in a musical tribute to Benjamin Britten.
The characters are larger than life (the lovelorn vicar, the not-so-merry widow etc), and the music includes arias and ensembles from operas varying from Beethoven's Fidelio and Mozart's Magic Flute to Benjamin Britten and Gilbert & Sullivan.
As Walker, the academic research officer at the Britten-Pears foundation, states in her introduction, this group of essays on Benjamin Britten reflect a new perspective in that the authors are either young scholars, approaching Britten in the light of recent theory or established ones who are approaching Britten for the first time and bring a comparative approach to the study.
English composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was one of the most distinctive voices in mid-20th-century opera.
For those of us who remember the crystal clarity and whiff of romance in her first two forays, we are looking forward to this premiere to music by Benjamin Britten during the company's winter season.
Bill demanded it go on, saying: "I'd rather hear a baby than Benjamin Britten.
1976: Tributes are being paid to Benjamin Britten, above, a modest and "brilliant" composer who died today.
Walshaw Lodge residential home in Prestatyn, formerly Clive House Preparatory School, where Britten's brother, Robert was headmaster, will host tenor John Bacon and pianist Helen Mills who will perform songs by Benjamin Britten.