Benjamin Britten (20th-Century Composers)
He wrote the first successful English opera since Purcell, along with a collection of songs, choral compositions, and ballets that have assured him an important place in 20th-century music. Michael Oliver, in one of Phaidon's series, 20th-Century Composers, offers a compact, useful introduction to British composer Benjamin Britten and his work, from folksong settings to church music and the great opera Peter Grimes. Frank about Britten's homosexuality and his long-time relationship with the tenor Peter Pears, the book is never prurient and seldom gossipy. Like all the Phaidon books, this one is relatively brief, well written, well illustrated, and not too technical.
Letters from a Life : Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten
(Benjamin Britten, Donald Mitchell (Editor), Philip Reed (Editor))
These remarkable letters, never before published, constitute a comprehensive biography told largely in Britten's own words. Volume 1 accompanies him through prep and English public school and then to London to the Royal College of Music, where the young composer is plunged into metropolitan life and makes influential new friends, among them Auden and Isherwood. This was a time of prodigious musical creativity, a growing awareness of his homosexuality, and the dawning of his political convictions. It was during this time that Britten met Peter Pears, the partner with whom his musical and personal relationship was to last a lifetime. This volume closes in May, 1939, when Britten and Pears depart for the United States. Volume 2 offers an overview of a crucial period in American and British history, politics, and culture. Britten's experience of exile, his return with Pears to England to face recriminations as a Conscientious Objector and prejudice as a brilliant gay artist, and the triumph of his first major opera, Peter Grimes, are all outlined in letters which are a fascinating mix of the public and private. These first two volumes of the Selected Letters and Diariesa further two are in preparationmake a fundamental contribution to Britten studies and to twentieth- century cultural history.
The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Britten
(Mervyn Cooke (Editor)
A comprehensive guide to the composer's work, aimed both at the non-specialist and music student. It sheds light on both the composer's stylistic and personal development, offering new interpretations of his operatic works and discussing his characteristic working methods. A distinguished team of contributors include some who worked with the composer during his lifetime, as well as leading representatives of the younger generation of Britten scholars on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Travel Diaries of Peter Pears, 1936-1978
(Peter Pears, edited by Philip Reed)
A volume in the Aldeburgh Studies in Music series published by Boydell and Brewer, which focuses on Benjamin Britten's techniques and influences, "Peter Pears: Travel Diaries" documents the alert observer's reactions to the world that he and famous lover Britten traveled in pursuit of careers and pleasure. Some of the most compelling aspects of the tenor's journal entries center around the Asian tour they made in the mid-1950s, which would profoundly influence the composer's subsequent development.