Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh

Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh,

1913–76, English composer. Britten's most characteristic expression is found in his vocal music, much of which was written for his partner, the tenor Sir Peter PearsPears, Sir Peter,
1910–86, English tenor. Pears studied at the Royal College of Music and became a member of the Sadler's Wells Opera and the English Opera Group. In 1948 he made his Covent Garden debut. He worked closely with Benjamin Britten from 1946.
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. His many song cycles and choral works include A Boy Was Born (1933) and A Ceremony of Carols (1942). Britten's great War Requiem (1962), setting the bitter war poems of Wilfred OwenOwen, Wilfred,
1893–1918, English poet, b. Oswestry, Shropshire. He served as a company commander in the Artist's Rifles during World War I and was killed in France on Nov. 4, 1918, one week before the armistice.
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, was first performed at the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, built beside the ruins of the old, destroyed during World War II. In his operas, which include Paul Bunyan (1941), Peter Grimes (1945), The Rape of Lucretia (1946), The Beggar's Opera (1948), Billy Budd (1951), The Turn of the Screw (1954), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960), and Death in Venice (1973), he displayed a sensitivity to text and a fondness for variation techniques, dynamic dissonance, and the use of ground basses. Britten's instrumental works, some composed when he was a youth, display considerable technical brilliance and colorful orchestration. A notable and popular example, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946), written for a film, is based on a theme by PurcellPurcell, Henry
, c.1659–1695, English composer and organist. Often considered England's finest native composer, Purcell combined a great gift for lyrical melody with harmonic invention and mastery of counterpoint.
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. He was created a life peer in 1976.


See selected letters ed. by P. Reed and M. Cooke (6 vol., 1991–2012); biographies by I. Holst (2d ed. 1970), E. W. White (new ed. 1970), H. Carpenter (1992), P. Kildea (2013), and N. Powell (2013); studies by P. Evans (1979), L. Walker (2009), H. Wiebe (2012), and M. Bostridge, ed. (2013).

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