Born: 1913, Lowestoft, Suffolk, England
Died: 1976, Aldeburgh, England
“I try to write as Stravinsky has written, and Picasso has painted, … they were the men who freed music and painting from the tyranny of the purely personal. They passed from manner to manner as a bee passes from flower to flower. I try to do the same."
If not quite a Renaissance man, Benjamin Britten was still less a man of his times than he was a throwback to the remarkably versatile, thoroughly skilled musicians-for-all-seasons who functioned brilliantly during the 18th century. His professionalism virtually always precluded mere dutifulness in even the most modest creative endeavors; like the court or church composers of the distant past, he wrote with facility and imagination whether working on order or on impulse. He was also a pianist of virtuoso caliber, and a conductor of considerable competence. Although his creative gifts flourished most remarkably when applied to vocal music – whether in solo, choral, or operatic context – he also demonstrated a high level of excellence in many instrumental works.
Lachrymae (1948, orch. 1976)
Kim Kashkashian, viola
Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra,
Dennis Russell Davies (ECM New Series)
Peter Grimes (1945)
Peter Pears, et al., Royal Opera House
Orchestra and Chorus, Britten (Decca)