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date: 17 February 2020

Britten, (Edward) Benjamin locked

  • Jennifer Doctor,
  • Judith LeGrove,
  • Paul Banks,
  • Heather Wiebe
  •  and Philip Brett

Extract

(b Lowestoft,Nov 22, 1913; d Aldeburgh, Dec 4, 1976). English composer, conductor and pianist. He and his contemporary Michael Tippett are among several pairs of composers who dominated English art music in the 20th century. Of their music, Britten’s early on achieved, and has maintained, wider international circulation. An exceedingly practical and resourceful musician, Britten worked with increasing determination to recreate the role of leading national composer held during much of his own life by Vaughan Williams, from whom he consciously distanced himself. Notable among his musical and professional achievements are the revival of English opera, initiated by the success of Peter Grimes in 1945; the building of institutions to ensure the continuing viability of musical drama; and outreach to a wider audience, particularly children, in an effort to increase national musical literacy and awareness. Equally important in this was his remaining accessible as a composer, rejecting the isolationism of the postwar avant garde and developing a distinctive tonal language that allowed amateurs and professionals alike to love his work and to enjoy performing and listening to it. Above all, he imbued his works with his own personal concerns, some of them hidden, principally those having to do with his love of men and boys, some more public, like his fiercely held pacifist beliefs, in ways that allowed people to sense the passion and conviction behind them even if unaware of their full implication. He also performed a fascinating, as well as problematic, assimilation of (or rapprochement with) Asian cultures, attempting an unusual integration of various non-Western musical traditions with his own increasingly linear style....

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