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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.
Further listening: Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,
Op. 34 (1946)
BBC Symphony, Leopold Stokowski
(BBC Legends) Peter Grimes (1945)
Peter Pears, et al., Royal Opera House
Orchestra and Chorus, Britten (Decca)