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Benjamin Britten

22 nov 1913 (Lowestoft) - 4 dec 1976 (Aldeburgh)


Books about Benjamin Britten and his music

bookAnita Ganeri and Benjamin Britten and Ben Kingsley The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Book & CD)
Harcourt Children's Books, 1996; ISBN 0152013040; 64 pages
A beginning guide to orchestral music invites readers to listen to each individual instrument on the CD and then turn to the pages in an introductory text to discover more about the orchestra and its sections. Price indication: $ 16.50
bookPatricia Howard Benjamin Britten: The Turn of the Screw (Cambridge Opera Handbooks)
Cambridge University Press, 1985-10-31; ISBN 0521283566; 180 pages
This book is designed to introduce the non-specialist music lover to Britten's opera, The Turn of the Screw. The opening chapters by Vivien Jones and Patricia Howard deal with the literary source of the opera Oames's novella), the structure of the libretto, and the technique by which a short story was transformed into an opera. The central chapter, on the musical style and structures of the opera, includes an account of the composition process deduced from early sketches of the work by John Evans, an analysis of the unique form of the opera with a more detailed examination of the last scene by Patricia Howard, and an account of the significance and effect of the orchestration by Christopher Palmer. Finally, Patricia Howard traces the stage history of the work, from its initial reception in Venice in 1954, through some seminal reinterpretations in the 1960s to its present established position in the repertoire. The book is generously illustrated and there is also a bibliography and discography. Price indication: $ 36.99
bookJohn Evans Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten, 1928-1938
Faber and Faber, 2009-11-05; ISBN 0571238831; 576 pages
Best remembered for his operas and his War Requiem, Benjamin Britten's radical politics and his sexuality have also ensured that he remains a controversial public figure. "Journeying Boy" is a selection of his diaries that offer the reader an unseen insight into this complex man. Encompassing the years 1928-1938, they explore some key periods of Britten's life - his early compositions, his education first under composer Frank Bridge and then at the Royal College of Music, an unhappy but productive period studying under John Ireland and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and his reluctant and often painful process of parting from the warm, safe environment of his family home and his beloved mother. The diaries cast light on an often misrepresented musician whose technique, originality and musical prowess have entranced audiences for generations and who continues to inspire composers and musicians around the world. Price indication: $ 32.27
bookMichael Oliver Benjamin Britten (20th-Century Composers)
Phaidon Press, 1996; ISBN 0714832774; 240 pages
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was the greatest English composer of his time, and the first of his generation to enjoy a wide international reputation. With the great success of "Peter Grimes" (1945) he effectively re-invented English opera and was a pioneer of music for film and radio. His monumental "War Requiem" reached a wider audience than any other choral work of the century. He had an international reputation as a pianist and conductor and founded a major arts festival in Aldeburgh, the small East Coast town in which he made his home. For much of his life, however, British critics dismissed his music as merely "clever", and some of his major works had disastrous premieres. In his '20s he considered emigrating to the USA, and lived there for over two years, but homesickness for the country of Suffolk drew him back and inspired some of his finest music. A pacifist and homosexual, he was the subject of much malicious gossip, yet his sexuality and his political and social convictions directly and indirectly inspired much of his art. For the greater part of his creative life he lived with and enjoyed a uniquely creative partnership with the tenor Peter Pears, for whom most of his songs and principal roles in all his operas were written. In this biography, the author creates a portrait of a great artist and discusses the contradictions of his quintessential Englishness and his world stature, his outsider status and his membership of the establishment his artistic adventurousness and his constant regard for musical forms and traditions. This text is part of the 20th-century composers series, examining composers in a biographical context, and offering a comprehensive study of key figures in the creation of 20th-century music. None of the books in the series presume a knowledge of specialized terms or musical notation. Each book in the series features a list of works, a bibliography, and a discography. Price indication: $ 16.97
bookJohn Bridcut Britten's Children
Faber and Faber, 2007-06-07; ISBN 0571228402; 352 pages
A hallmark of Benjamin Britten's compositions is his use of boys' voices - the music he wrote for and about children has a special resonance. John Bridcut interweaves discussion of this compelling music with tender and balanced accounts of the composer's intense friendships with adolescent boys. He explores how these relationships helped Britten maintain links with his own happy childhood and the profound influence they had on him. Price indication: $ 10.60
bookMichael Oliver Benjamin Britten (20th Century Composers)
Phaidon Press Inc., 2008-04-23; ISBN 0714847712; 240 pages
Benjamin Britten (1913-76) changed the course of English music with highly original works such as his opera Peter Grimes . While his music is performed more widely than those of any other English composer, his international success did not prevent him from continuing to draw inspiration from his native land. In this engaging biography, the author creates a portrait of a great artist, exploring his wide-ranging compositions in detail and discussing the many contradictions that pervaded Britten's fascinating life and career. Benjamin Britten is part of Phaidon's successful 20th Century Composers series, which presents authoritative and engaging biographies of the great creative musicians of our time, augmented by striking visual material and essential reference information. This edition of the book features a whimsical new cover by Jean-Jacques Sempé, the world-renowned illustrator and cartoonist. Price indication: $ 8.04
bookDaniel Felsenfeld Samuel Barber and Benjamin Britten - A Listener's Guide : Their Lives and Their Music
Amadeus Press, 2005; ISBN 1574671081; 180 pages
The second title in the Amadeus Press Parallel Lives series, this volume examines the lives and work of two giants of 20th century music. Both composers influenced countless others, and their works are performed often in today's concert and opera houses. Price indication: $ 15.61
bookDonald Mitchell and Philip Reed and Benjamin Britten and Mervyn Cooke Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, 1913-1976
University of California Press, 2005; ISBN 0520242599; 784 pages
This long-awaited third volume of composer Benjamin Britten's remarkable letters covers the years 1946-51. Fresh from the astonishing success of his great first opera, Peter Grimes, Britten was vital to the post-war rebuilding of the arts in Great Britain with his visionary work as a composer, conductor, and performer. With his partner, the celebrated tenor Peter Pears, he founded the Aldeburgh Festival, which eventually grew into the international festival that it is today, and the English Opera Group. He also toured widely in Europe and the United States as a pianist and conductor. During this time he wrote many of his best-known works, including the operas Billy Budd, Albert Herring, and The Rape of Lucretia. Britten's correspondents include literary figures such as Christopher Isherwood, Edith Sitwell, E. M. Forster (the librettist for Billy Budd), and Edward Sackville-West, as well as musical colleagues from around the world including Ernest Ansermet, Francis Poulenc, Aaron Copland,and Igor Stravinsky. This volume of selected letters represents one of the richest and most innovative periods of the composer's creative life. His daily concerns and the unique era in which he lived are vividly evoked by the comprehensive and scholarly annotations, which offer a wide range of detailed and fascinating information. Donald Mitchell contributes a superb introduction. Illustrations: 16 pages of b/w photographs Price indication: $ 47.67
bookMervyn Cooke and Julian Rushton Britten: War Requiem (Cambridge Music Handbooks)
Cambridge University Press, 1996; ISBN 0521446333; 128 pages
The book examines from various viewpoints Britten's War Requiem, written in 1962 to celebrate the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral and uniting the famous anti-war poetry of Wilfred Owen with the Latin Requiem Mass. Britten's and Owen's pacifist beliefs are compared, and the chronology of the compositional process unraveled from documentary and manuscript sources. The musical language is analyzed in detail, and the fluctuating critical responses to the score are assessed. Price indication: $ 21.99
bookMervyn Cooke and Philip Reed and Richard Wagner Benjamin Britten: Billy Budd (Cambridge Opera Handbooks)
Cambridge University Press, 1993; ISBN 0521387507; 196 pages
Billy Budd, based on Herman Melville's nautical allegory, is one of Britten's most challenging operas. This comprehensive guide considers the work from both literary and musical viewpoints. Melville's novella is discussed, as is the interpretation given to the novella by the librettists E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier. A detailed synopsis guides the reader through the musical and dramatic action of the opera and in a chapter devoted to the music, Britten's distinctive technique of tonal symbolism is analyzed to demonstrate the effectiveness of his musical response to the dramatic suggestions of Melville's story. The most important critical writings on Billy Budd are represented by an expanded version of Donald Mitchell's 1979 notebook on the opera. A final chapter charts the opera's stage history and fluctuating critical reception. Price indication: $ 26.99
bookGraham Johnson and George Odam Britten, Voice and Piano: Lectures on the Vocal Music of Benjamin Britten (Guildhall Research Studies) (Guildhall Research Studies)
Ashgate Publishing, 2003-09; ISBN 0754638723; 280 pages
This collection of eight "lectures" by pianist, Graham Johnson, is based on a series of concert talks given at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as part of the Benjamin Britten festival in 2001. The focus of the book is on Britten's songs, starting with his earliest compositions in the genre. Graham Johnson suggests that the nature of Britten's creativity is especially apparent in his setting of poetry, that he becomes the poet's alter-ego. A chapter on Britten's settings of Auden and Eliot explores the particular influences these writers brought to bear at opposite poles of the composer's life. The inspiration of fellow musicians is also discussed, with a chapter devoted to Britten's time in Russia and his friendship with the Rostropovitch family. Closer to home, the book places in context Britten's folksong settings, illustrating how he subverted the English folksong tradition by refusing to accept previous definitions of what constituted national loyalty. Drawing on letters and diaries, and featuring a number of photographs, this book illuminates aspects of Britten's songs from the personal perspective of the pianist who worked closely with Peter Pears after Benjamin Britten was unable to perform through illness. Johnson worked with Pears on learning the role of Aschenbach in "Death in Venice" and was the official pianist for the first master class given by Peter Pears at Snape in 1972. Price indication: $ 50.02
bookHumphrey Carpenter Benjamin Britten: A Biography
Scribner, 1993; ISBN 0684195690; 677 pages
A biography of Benjamin Britten which presents a panorama of British musical life since the 1920s. Price indication: $ 9.40
bookMervyn Cooke and Jonathan Cross The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Britten (Cambridge Companions to Music)
Cambridge University Press, 1999; ISBN 0521574765; 372 pages
This is a comprehensive guide to Britten's work, aimed both at the nonspecialist and the 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. Price indication: $ 28.99
bookPeter Evans The Music of Benjamin Britten: Illustrated With over 300 Music Examples and Diagrams (Clarendon Paperbacks)
Oxford University Press, 1995; ISBN 0198165900; 608 pages
This comprehensive guide to Britten's musical achievement discusses all the published compositions in subdivisions of genre and period, and devotes a separate chapter to each opera. With the help of over 300 music examples and diagrams, Evans demonstrates Britten's mastery of the art of composition. Since this book's first appearance in 1979, Britten's publishers have made available a considerable number of works withheld during the composer's lifetime; some are juvenilia, but others date from as late as the Peter Grimes period. In a postscript to this edition, Peter Evans assesses the creative stature of these works and their significance in Britten's development. The catalogue of works now includes these additional titles, and the selective bibliography has been revised. Price indication: $ 49.95
bookLucy Walker Benjamin Britten: New Perspectives on His Life and Work (Aldeburgh Studies in Music)
Boydell Press, 2009-11-19; ISBN 1843835169; 205 pages
Benjamin Britten: New Perspectives on his Life and Work reveals the extent to which Britten scholarship is reaching outside the confines of Anglo-American criticism. The volume engages with juvenilia and other orchestral works from the 1920s and examines a broad range of influences on Britten, including the works of Shostakovich and Verdi, the poetry of Ovid, and the cinema. Among his operatic works the dramatic qualities of Owen Wingrave are discussed through a close study of Piper's libretto and we witness the genesis of a libretto written by Australian novelist Patrick White and submitted to Britten with the hope of a future collaboration. The volume uncovers the generally hostile reception Britten's operas received in Paris until around the 1990s. Britten's status as 'outsider' in both the USA and in his own country when he returned in 1942 is discussed: the possibility is that Britten was becoming nervous of the gathering US involvement in the war and the real chance he may be called up to serve in the US forces is also discussed here. Price indication: $ 85.95
bookMichael Kennedy Britten (Master Musicians Series)
Oxford University Press, 2001; ISBN 0198164793; 396 pages
Celebrating its 100th anniversary, this extraordinary series continues to amaze and captivate its readers with detailed insight into the lives and work of music's geniuses. Unlike other composer biographies that focus narrowly on the music, this series explores the personal history of each composer and the social context surrounding the music. In a precise, engaging, and authoritative manner, each volume combines a vivid portrait of the master musicians' inspirations, influences, life experiences, even their weaknesses, with an accessible discussion of their work-all in roughly 300 pages. Further, each volume offers superb reference material, including a detailed life and times chronology, a complete list of works, a personalia glossary highlighting the important people in the composer's life, and a select bibliography. Under the supervision of music expert and series general editor Stanley Sadie, Master Musicians will certainly proceed to delight music scholars, serious musicians, and all music lovers for another hundred years. For this revised edition of the highly-praised study of the composer, Michael Kennedy includes new, recently available, material on Britten's life. He has also added a new chapter on Britten's posthumously published works. And all the reference sections are updated, including the discography of Britten's performances of his own works. Price indication: $ 12.89
bookDonald Mitchell and Richard Wagner Benjamin Britten: Death in Venice (Cambridge Opera Handbooks)
Cambridge University Press, 1987; ISBN 0521319439; 248 pages
This book is exceptional amongst those that have appeared so far in this well-established series, in that it is largely written by those who worked with the composer and assisted him during the period in which the opera was composed and first put on the stage. It will thus remain a source of first-hand information on Britten's final operatic achievement. Donald Mitchell was Britten's publisher at the time of Death in Venice and his Introduction includes many personal observations on the genesis of the work. The latter part of the book contains essays by T. J. Reed and Patrick Carnegy on the libretto's source in Thomas Mann's novella and Philip Reed compares briefly Visconti's cinematic interpretation of the novella. The volume is richly illustrated with music examples, sketches and extracts from the autograph score, and pictures from the first production. It will make an essential reference work and indispensable companion for opera-goers, students and scholars alike. Price indication: $ 22.99
bookPhilip Rupprecht and Arnold Whittall Britten's Musical Language (Music in the Twentieth Century)
Cambridge University Press, 2002; ISBN 0521631548; 368 pages
Blending insights from linguistic and social theories of speech, ritual and narrative with music-analytic and historical criticism,Britten's Musical Language offers fresh perspectives on the composer's fusion of verbal and musical utterance in opera and song. It provides close interpretative studies of the major scores (including Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, The Turn of the Screw, War Requiem, Curlew River and Death in Venice) and explores Britten's ability to fashion complex and mysterious symbolic dramas from the interplay of texted song and wordless discourse of motives and themes. Price indication: $ 95.00
bookBenjamin Britten and Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed Letters from a Life: Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten
University of California Press, 1991; ISBN 0520065204; 1403 pages
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. Price indication: $ 195.00
bookClaire Seymour The Operas of Benjamin Britten : Expression and Evasion (Aldeburgh Studies in Music)
Boydell Press, 2004; ISBN 085115865X; 368 pages
The delicate balance between private and public communication, and the tension between art as self-expression and art as moral resolution were key concerns in Britten's music. Seymour examines ways in which Britten's operas explored and articulated the inherent ambiguity and latent sexuality of music, particularly song, and suggests that Britten's operas may illustrate his search for a public 'voice' which would embody, communicate, and perhaps resolve his private beliefs and anxieties. Analyses of Britten's operas from Paul Bunyan to Death in Venice, the three Church Parables, and several of the 'children's operas' offer evidence that, for Britten, opera was the natural medium through which to explore, express and, paradoxically, repress his private concerns.CLAIRE SEYMOUR is an Opera Studies Tutor at Rose Bruford College, Kent. Price indication: $ 95.00

Sheet music, libretti, etc.

Henry Purcell - 12 Selected Songs: Realizations by Benjamin Britten Medium/Low Voice (BH Voice) - Boosey and Hawkes

Rejoice in the Lamb Festival Cantata for Treble, Alto, Tenor and Bass soloists, Choir and Organ Op. 30 (SATB Soli, SATB Chorus and Organ) - Boosey and Hawkes

Songs and Proverbs of William Blake: Op. 74 - Faber & Faber

The beggar's opera: A ballad-opera by John Gay (1728), in a new musical version, realised from the original airs : op. 43 - Boosey & Hawkes

War Requiem (full orchestral score) - No publisher



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