Britten, Benjamin

Benjamin Britten (22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976) was one of the great English composers of the 20th century. He is known for his operas and choral works. He stressed that he composed music for the people of Aldeburgh and today's people - and that he did not want to make music for posterity. Britten was exceptionally precocious; he wrote songs before he could read or write. By the time he was 14, he had written a symphony, five more string quartets, ten piano sonatas, and various other minor works. His "Simple Symphony," dated 1934, includes several of these early works' melodies and themes. Britten's "Peter Grimes" (1945) was his first successful Opera, a breakthrough in his career. The Cello Sonata, Op. 65 was the first of five significant pieces Britten wrote for Rostropovich during the next decade, the others being the Cello Symphony and three solo cello suites. In his correspondence with Rostropovich, Britten shows his modesty in the presence of Rostropovich's fame. On November 22, 1913, the feast day of Saint Cecilia, Britten was born in the fishing town of Lowestoft, Suffolk, on the east coast of England. Robert Victor Britten (1877–1934) and his wife Edith Rhoda, née Hockey (1874– 1937), had four children, with Robert being the youngest. A lack of money had shattered Robert Britten's childhood dream of being a farmer, so he decided to become a dentist, a career he enjoyed but found tedious. He met Edith Hockey, the daughter of a Home Office civil servant, while studying at Charing Cross Hospital in London. They were married in St. John's, Smith Square, London, in September 1901. His father was a loving but severe and distant dad, according to most biographies of Britten. 'Britten got along with him and shared his caustic sense of humor, passion to work, and propensity for taking pains,' his sister Beth said of him. The secretary of the Lowestoft Musical Society, Edith Britten, was a superb amateur pianist and an accomplished composer. In the early 20th century, social class inequalities were taken extremely seriously in the English regions. Even though Britten referred to his family as "quite conventional middle class," the Brittens had several unique characteristics: Agnostic Robert Britten refused to attend church on Sundays, and Edith's father was illegitimate. Musical soirees were a significant part of Edith Britten's effort to retain the family's social status. Britten almost died of pneumonia when he was only three months old. Doctors informed his parents that he would never be able to lead a regular life because of the condition. He made a complete recovery, which surprised everyone since he had been an avid tennis and cricket player since he was a child. As a result of his father's disinterest in music, his sisters never developed a love of music. At the same time, despite his musical prowess, his brother was only interested in ragtime. Edith gave Britten his first piano and notation lessons when he was a child. At five years old, he made his first forays into composing. When he was seven years old, he began taking piano lessons, and three years later, he began taking viola lessons. He was one of the few composers who grew up listening to live music since his father refused to let a phonograph or radio in the home.

To his mother's delight, Britten was named the "Fourth B" after Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms when he was a young composer. The composer subsequently said that respect for these artists hindered Britten's early growth as a composer. A particular target of his hostility was Brahms, whose piano compositions he regarded highly. Britten's musical views were broadened through his friendship with Frank Bridge. According to Matthews, he became inspired by the symphonic works of Debussy and Ravel. Bridge also introduced Britten to Schoenberg and Berg, whose deaths in 1935 profoundly affected the composer. Grainger's "excellent folk-song arrangements" influenced many of Britten's subsequent folk arrangements. By this time, Britten had acquired a long-lasting antipathy against the English Pastoral School represented by Vaughan Williams and Ireland. Also charmed by Delius' work, Britten described Brigg Fair as "wonderful" in 1931. Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, which he described as "bewildering and horrifying" but also "absolutely beautiful and compelling," was another piece he heard that year. Similarly, the composer's Symphony of Psalms and Petrushka were praised. Because of their envy and distrust of one another, they built animosity. Along with fellow composer Michael Tippett, Britten committed himself to the English music of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, particularly the work of Purcell. One of Britten's main goals as an opera composer was to bring back the "brilliance, freedom, and energy that has been oddly uncommon since the death of Purcell" to the English language's musical setting, he wrote. Even more than Purcell, Mahler's Fourth Symphony, which Britten heard in September 1930, was among the closest of Britten's kindred creative spirits. As recently as the early 1980s, Mahler's work was not well appreciated and was seldom performed in British concert venues. Later, Britten wrote about how much the music in this piece struck him. It wasn't long before he found more pieces by Mahler, including Das Lied von der Erde. Britten's acquaintance with Rostropovich inspired the Cello Sonata (1961) and three suites for solo cello (1964–71). Britten's compositions incorporated string quartets from a student composition in 1928 until his Third String Quartet at various points in his career. (1975). Mason deemed Britten's Second Quartet, composed in 1945 as a tribute to Purcell, to be his most significant instrumental piece to that point. Keller says of Britten's ease in solving "the contemporary sonata issue – the attainment of symmetry and unity within an extended ternary circle based on more than one topic" about this piece, which was composed at a very early stage of his creative career. Keller compares the Quartet's inventiveness to that of Walton's Viola Concerto in its innovativeness. "One of Britten's best triumphs, one with fascinating references to Bartok and Shostakovich, and written with an economy that brings up a depth of feeling that can be terrifying," stated critic Colin Anderson in 2007 of the third Quartet, which was Britten's last significant work. The Zoltán Kodály theme was the inspiration for Britten's Gemini Variations (1965), a virtuoso piece for the 13-year-old Jeney twins, who he had met in Budapest the year before. In The Times, suite for Harp (1969) by Britten for Osian Ellis was characterized as a "little masterpiece of focused fantasy" by Joan Chissell. Benjamin Dwyer has commended Nocturnal after John Dowland (1963) for solo guitar for its intricacy, sustained musical debate, and philosophical depth.

Cello Compositions of Benjamin Britten | Animato Strings


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