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Benjamin Britten

Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh

Benjamin Britten, 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 Pears. 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), based on the bitter war poems of Wilfred Owen, was sung at the dedication in England of the reconstructed Coventry Cathedral, 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), 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 Purcell. 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).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Christopher Headington.
Holmes & Meier, 1982
The Operas of Benjamin Britten: Expression and Evasion
Claire Seymour.
Boydell Press, 2004
Britten's Musical Language
Philip Rupprecht.
Cambridge University Press, 2001
Tribute to Benjamin Britten on His Fiftieth Birthday
Anthony Gishford; Benjamin Britten.
Faber and Faber, 1963
Revealing Masks: Exotic Influences and Ritualized Performance in Modernist Music Theater
W. Anthony Sheppard.
University of California Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Britten's Parables"
The Modern Age, 1890-1960
Martin Cooper.
Oxford University Press, 1974
Librarian’s tip: "Benjamin Britten" begins on p. 543
An Introduction to Twentieth Century Music
Peter S. Hansen.
Allyn and Bacon, 1961
Benjamin Britten: A Bio-Bibliography
Stewart R. Craggs.
Greenwood, 2002
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