Benjamin Britten, born in 1913
, was a British composer
of some note. His music
, usually operatic and written for choral voices and accompaniment, is dramatic and solemn
He began composing at a young age, and when he was 17 entered the Royal College of Music. After graduating he found a job writing accompanying music for, of all things, General Post Office documentaries. While there he met with poet W.H. Auden, with whom he later collaborated on several pieces.
In 1939, at the start of World War II, Britten emigrated to the US with Peter Pears. Britten was strongly anti-war (as is evident in his War Requiem) and left as a conscientious objector, though he later returned in 1942.
He has won numerous accolades and awards for his music, perhaps most significantly among them being named a Companion of Honour in 1952 and a member of the Order of Merit in 1965.
In 1968 he became seriously ill with heart disease, but continued to compose. He insisted on finishing what was to end up being his last opera, Death in Venice, before undergoing heart surgery. He died in 1976.
He is widely supposed to have been gay. He lived with Peter Pears, the famous tenor that many of his solo pieces were written for, for many years, and they emigrated to America together and enjoyed a close relationship. Some sources openly acknowledge that they were partners; others gloss over it or say only that they were friends.
His major works include:
-The Turn of the Screw
based on Melville's short novel
-A Midsummer Night's Dream
-Death in Venice
-A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
-Ceremony of Carols
A solemn celebration of the nativity, and perhaps his most enduringly popular work. For boy's choir and harp, though many mixed choirs sing it.
Another ceremony, this one composed for the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral, the famous church destroyed by nazi bombers in World War II. It features poetry by Wilfred Owen. It was first performed in 1962 at the reconsecration of the Cathedral, featuring three soloists of diverse origin - one from England, one from Germany, one from Russia. It is strongly anti-war, singing of the terrible loss and senselessness of war.