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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

BRITTEN, Benjamin
b Lowestoft, 22 November 1913
d Aldeburgh, 4 December 1976, aged sixty-three

His father was a dental surgeon, his mother a singer. He composed from the age of five and was taught piano, viola and composition, winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1930 and studying under Ireland and Benjamin. In 1935 he joined the GPO Film Unit and spent four years writing incidental music for films, which led to commissions for theatre and radio work. He met and collaborated with W. H. Auden, who had a great influence on him. In 1939, being a conscientious objector, he went to Canada and America, staying there for two and a half years, and returning to the UK in 1942. He returned to his old home at Snape, and in 1947 moved to Aldeburgh. At the suggestion of his friend Peter Pears the first Aldeburgh Festival was held there in 1948. At the end of 1955 he and Pears made an extended tour of the Far East. For Britten's operas and other large works the Snape Maltings was converted into a concert and opera theatre in 1967; though it was burned down in 1969 it was immediately rebuilt. In 1973 he was admitted to hospital with a heart lesion; and although he continued writing he never fully recovered.

1930 (17)

'Hymn to the Virgin'

1932 (19)

Sinfonietta for chamber orchestra

Phantasy Quartet for oboe and string trio

1933 (20)

A Boy was Born, choral variations for men's, women's and boys'

voices unaccompanied with organ ad lib

Two Part-songs for chorus and piano

Friday Afternoons, twelve children's songs with piano (1933-5)

1934 (21)

Simple Symphony, for string orchestra (based entirely on material

which the composer wrote between the ages of nine and twelve)

Suite for violin and piano (1934-5)

Holiday Diary, suite for piano

Te Deum in C major

1936 (23)

Our Hunting Fathers, song cycle

Soirées musicales, suite

1937 (24)

Mont Juic, suite of Catalan Dances for orchestra (with Berkeley, L. qv)

Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, for strings

On This Island, song cycle

1938 (25)

Piano Concerto No 1 in D major (revised 1945)

1939 (26)

Violin Concerto in D minor (revised 1958)

Canadian Carnival, for orchestra (1939-40)

Ballad of Heroes, for high voice, choir and orchestra

Les Illuminations, song cycle

1940 (27)

Diversions on a Theme, for piano (left hand)

and orchestra

Paul Bunyan, operetta (c1940-1, revised 1974)

Sinfonia da Requiem, for orchestra

Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, for tenor and piano

1941 (28)

Scottish Ballad, for two pianos and orchestra

Matinées musicales, for orchestra

String Quartet No 1

1942 (29)

Hymn to St Cecilia, for five-part chorus with solos unaccompanied

A Ceremony of Carols, for treble voices and harp

1943 (30)

Rejoice in the Lamb, a festival cantata

Prelude and Fugue for strings

Serenade, song cycle for tenor, horn and strings

1944 (31)

Festival Te Deum, for chorus and organ

1945 (32)

Peter Grimes, opera

The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, for high voice and piano

String Quartet No 2

1946 (33)

Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell (Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra), for speaker and orchestra

The Rape of Lucretia, opera

1947 (34)

Albert Herring, opera

Canticle No 1, 'My Beloved is Mine'

Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Vittoria for organ

1948 (35)

St Nicholas, for tenor, choir, strings, piano and percussion

The Beggar's Opera, by John Gay realised from original airs

1949 (36)

The Little Sweep (Let's Make an Opera)

Spring Symphony, for three solo singers, mixed choir, boys' choir

and orchestra

A Wedding Anthem for soprano, tenor, chorus and organ

1950 (37)

Lachrymae, for viola and piano

Five Flower Songs, for unaccompanied chorus

1951 (38)

Billy Budd, opera

Six Metamorphoses after Ovid, for solo oboe

1952 (39)

Canticle No 2, 'Abraham and Isaac', for contralto, tenor and piano

1953 (40)

Gloriana, opera

Winter Words, songs

1954 (41)

The Turn of the Screw, opera

Canticle No 3, 'Still Falls the Rain', for tenor, chorus and piano

1955 (42)

Alpine Suite, for recorder trio

Hymn to St Peter, for choir and organ

1956 (43)

The Prince of the Pagodas, ballet

Antiphon, for mixed choir and organ

1957 (44)

Noye's Fludde, mystery play with music

Songs from the Chinese, for high voice and guitar

1958 (45)

Nocturne, song cycle for tenor, seven obbligato instruments and strings

Sechs Holderlin-Fragmente, song cycle

1959 (46)

Missa Brevis

Cantata Academica, Carmen Basiliense, for soprano, alto, tenor and bass soli, chorus and orchestra

1960 (47)

A Midsummer Night's Dream, opera

1961 (48)

War Requiem, for soprano, tenor and baritone soli, chorus, orchestra, chamber orchestra, boys' choir, and organ

Cello Sonata in C major

1963 (50)

Symphony for cello and orchestra

Cantata misericordium, for tenor, baritone, string quartet, string orchestra, piano, harp and timpani

Nocturnal, after John Dowland, for guitar

1964 (51)

Curlew River, parable for church performance

Cello Suite No 1

1965 (52)

Gemini Variations, for flute, violin and piano (four hands)

Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, for voice and piano

Voices for Today, anthem for chorus

The Poet's Echo, for high voice and piano

1966 (53)

The Burning Fiery Furnace, parable for church performance

The Golden Vanity, for boys and piano

1967 (54)

Cello Suite No 2

The Building of the House, overture, with or without chorus

1968 (55)

The Children's Crusade, for children's voices and orchestra

The Prodigal Son, parable for church performance

1969 (56)

Suite for harp

'Who are these children?', for tenor and piano

1970 (57)

Owen Wingrave, opera

1971 (58)

Cello Suite No 3

Canticle No 4, 'Journey of the Magi'

1973 (60)

Death in Venice, opera

1974 (61)

Canticle No 5, 'The Death of St Narcissus', for tenor and harp

Suite on English Folk Tunes for orchestra

A Birthday Hansel, for voice and harp

1975 (62)

Phaedra, dramatic cantata for mezzo-soprano and small orchestra

String Quartet No 3

Sacred and Profane, eight medieval Lyrics for unaccompanied voices

1976 (63)

Eight Folk Song Arrangements with harp and piano

Welcome Ode, for young people's chorus and orchestra

For further detail visit the Britten Web-site

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