Title graphic: Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976)
Britten: 1

Together with Tippett, Benjamin (Edward) Britten, English composer, pianist and conductor, led the generation of British composers following that of Ralph Vaughan Williams. The first performance of Britten's opera, Peter Grimes (7 June, 1945), marked the revival of English opera, a revival sustained by Britten's subsequent eleven operas and those of Tippett. Britten's sympathy for the voice found further outlet in thirteen song cycles, roughly half of which were written for his lifelong companion, Peter Pears, and in his writing for boys' voices. On Receiving the First Aspen Award (1964) contains an important statement of Britten's artistic beliefs, which found particular expression in his music for amateurs, such as the children's opera, Noye's Fludde (1957), and in the creation of the festival at Aldeburgh, where he lived from 1947. Britten was awarded the Order of Merit (1965) and a life peerage (1976).

Born in Lowestoft, the son of a dentist, Britten began composing at the age of five, and such was his progress that Frank Bridge accepted the thirteen-year-old Britten as a pupil. Lessons with Bridge continued throughout Britten's school days, and both Bridge's professional instruction and Britten's formidable talent are well in evidence in the remarkable Quatre Chansons Françaises (1928). Britten's further development was somewhat frustrated by unsympathetic teaching during his period at the Royal College of Music in London (1930-3), although he gained more help from John Ireland's composition lessons than he was later to acknowledge. Despite opposition, he managed to secure a handful of prestigious performances while still at the college - his Op. 1, the Sinfonietta (dedicated to Bridge), was first performed at an Anne Macnaghten/Iris Lemare concert (31 January, 1933). A proposal to study composition with Alban Berg was thwarted.