Benjamin Britten was an English composer, conductor, and pianist who is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s best composers. He was a genius as a youngster, beginning to play the piano at the age of two and composing his first piece at the age of five, and he went on to become the most important figure in British classical music at the time. Despite attending the Royal College of Music, he was more affected by his individual study with composer Frank Bridge. At the age of twenty, he had his public debut with the a cappella choral work ‘A Boy Was Born,’ and with ‘Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge,’ he shot to international recognition in a matter of months. He was a prolific composer who wrote opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber works, among other things. He has garnered numerous medals and honors over the years. He was also the first musician to be knighted and given the title of Baron Britten. ‘Peter Grimes,’ ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,’ and, most importantly, ‘The War Requiem,’ are among his most well-known pieces today.
Childhood and Adolescence
Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft, a port town in the English county of Suffolk, on November 22, 1913. Robert Victor Britten, his father, was a successful but frustrated dentist.
Edith Rhoda, née Hockey, was Benjamin’s mother and also the secretary of the Lowesoft Musical Society. The key community members attended her musical soirees held at her home. Despite their status as members of the middle class, they had a place in society.
With two older sisters, Charlotte Elizabeth Britten and Edith Barbara Britten, and a brother, Robert Harry Marsh Britten, Benjamin was the youngest of his parents’ four children. Benjamin was born a musical genius, much to his mother’s pleasure, whereas his sisters were uninterested in music and his brother was solely interested in rag-time.
He also got along with his father, who was described as distant yet caring. They had a sharp sense of humor, a commitment to work, and the ability to withstand hardship, according to his sister Elizabeth.
He suffered pneumonia when he was three months old, and it nearly killed him. Despite his remarkable recovery, he was left with a weak heart. Despite this, he was an avid tennis player who also enjoyed cricket.
His first love, though, was music. He began playing the piano at the age of two and began composing music at the age of five. His first teacher was his mother.
He began his formal education at a dame school when he was seven years old. The Astle sisters ran it, and Ethel Astle, the youngest of the two, taught piano at the school. Benjamin must have admired her teaching because he was constantly grateful to her.
The following year, he was transferred to South Lodge, a Lowestof prep school, but he continued to take piano lessons with Ethel Astle. The school’s headmaster was a severe individual. Despite the fact that Benjamin was rarely punished, he frequently witnessed other students being subjected to corporal punishment and was appalled by the harshness of it.
At the same time, he continued to compose music, which he did before going to school so that his grades would not suffer. He excelled at mathematics, which was his favorite subject. He was also a sports fan.
He began taking viola lessons at the age of ten from Audrey Alston, a friend of his mother’s who had been a professional musician prior to her marriage. She pushed Benjamin to go to symphony concerts as a child.
Frank Bridge helping in studies
Benjamin heard Frank Bridge, an English composer, violist, and conductor with strong pacifist ideals, while attending one of these concerts in October 1924. The tiny boy was blown away by his orchestral poem, ‘The Sea.’
When he got home, he joyfully informed Alston about his adventure. By chance, Alston knew Bridge, so when he came to the area in 1927 to attend the Norwich Festival, she accompanied young Benjamin, who was just fourteen at the time, to see him.
Bridge was so taken aback by the young boy’s musical ability that he offered him music lessons if he came to London. It was agreed that he would continue his studies at Lowestoft while also traveling to London on a regular basis to study music with him.
Britten continued to visit London on a regular basis after 1927, when he studied composition with Bridge and piano with Harold Samuel. Bridge was the one who taught him to pay close attention to compositional details and, more significantly, to locate and stay true to himself.
Bridge also introduced him to a diverse group of composers from other countries, laying the groundwork for Benjamin’s musical career. He did not study with him for long, however, as he was boarded at Gresham’s School in Holt, Norfolk, in September 1928.
Benjamin Britten detested the school, and even more so, the music teacher. When he earned a composition scholarship in 1930, he eagerly transferred to the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied until 1933. RCM, on the other hand, let him down.
Despite this, he studied composition with John Ireland and piano with Arthur Benjamin, gaining only a rudimentary understanding. Sullivan, the Ernest Farrar Prize for composition, and the Cobbett Prize for chamber music were all awarded to him despite this.
During this time, he continued to study privately with Bridge and visited different performances, where he became acquainted with the works of composers like as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler. ‘Sinfonietta, Op. 1’, ‘A Boy Was Born, Op 3’, ‘Friday Afternoons,’ and ‘A Hymn to the Virgin’ were among his major works at this time.
Early on in your career
Benjamin Britten returned to Lowestoft after finishing his studies at RCM. He began working on eight piano compositions he had written as a youth there. It was first performed in the Stuart Hall in 1934 as ‘Simple Symphony Op 4’, with him directing an amateur orchestra.
Bridge arranged for Britten to attend in a job interview with the BBC’s music department in February 1935. He was relieved to learn that he would only be writing the score for a documentary film, ‘The King’s Stamp,’ for the GPO Film Unit, rather than a permanent employment.
He began writing music for the film unit on a regular basis following that. During this time, he met poet Wystan Hugh Auden, with whom he collaborated on a number of groundbreaking documentaries, including “Coal Face,” “Night Mail,” “Cabaret Songs,” “On This Island,” “Paul Bunyan,” and “Hymn to St. Cecilia.”
Britten also worked as a freelance composer, writing music for a variety of radio, theater, and film productions. ‘King Arthur’ and ‘The Sword in the Stone’ (radio); ‘The Ascent of F6,’ ‘On the Frontier,’ and ‘Johnson Over Jordan’ (theatre); ‘Night Mail,’ and ‘Love from a Stranger’ (theatre); ‘Night Mail,’ and ‘Love from a Stranger’ (theatre); ‘Night Mail,’ and ‘Love from a Stranger’ (thea (film).
1937 was a pivotal year for Britten on a personal level. This was the year that his mother passed away. He was deeply attached to her, and the occurrence left him heartbroken. At the same time, he must have felt emancipated, for it was only after this that he began to form intimate relationships with people.
In 1937, he also met English tenor Peter Pears, who is credited with inspiring his music. They’ve worked closely together since then, eventually forming a personal bond. He also wrote ‘Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge’ in the same year, which garnered him international attention.
In the United States
Benjamin Britten and Pears left for the United States of America in April 1939, just before World War II broke out. They planned to return to England when World War I broke out, but after consulting the British Embassy, they opted to stay in the United States.
Britten wrote ‘Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo’ in 1940 while in the United States, the first of several song cycles he created for Pears. Another noteworthy piece from this period was ‘Paul Bunyan,’ his first music drama written to Auden’s libretto and performed in 1941.
Britten came found ‘The Borough,’ a collection of poems by George Crabbe, in early 1942. ‘Peter Grimes,’ set on the east coast of England, was particularly influential among the poems in that collection. Britten realized he had to return to England and compose music for the poetry.
Return to the United Kingdom
As a result, Benjamin Britten and Pears made off for England in March 1942, finishing ‘Hymn to St. Cecilia’ and ‘A Ceremony of Carols’ on the way. Serge Koussevitzky, a well-known conductor, offered him a $1,000 contract to create an opera before he departed.
Britten had been a pacifist since infancy, and when he returned to the United States in April 1942, he petitioned the Tribunal of Conscientious Objectors for relief from military service. He, on the other hand, committed to contribute whatever he could to the war effort. He was given unrestricted permission.
He wrote ‘Rejoice in the Lamb’ in 1943. The following year, he moved to Snape, Suffolk, where he bought a country house and began work on ‘Peter Grimes.’ Meanwhile, Pears joined the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company, where Joan Cross served as creative director and principal soprano.
Following the World War II
‘Peter Grimes’ premiered in London in June 1945, just after WWII ended, with Pears and Cross in the starring parts. Since ‘Gilbert and Sullivan,’ it has been considered as the first truly successful British opera.
Benjamin Britten traveled to Germany in July 1945 to perform recitals for concentration camp survivors. He was so taken aback by what he saw there that he refused to talk about it, but he recovered his composure in time to write ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.’ It was one of his most popular works for a long time.
Two of his key works during this time period were ‘The Rape of Lucretia’ (1946) and ‘Albert Herring’ (1947). In 1947, he founded the English Opera Group, which he co-founded with John Piper and Eric Crozier. His goal was to showcase British composers’ operatic compositions.
The Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts was founded by Britten, Pears, and Crozier in June 1948. It was such a success that it became a yearly event, and Britten participated in it every year until his death in 1976.
Throughout the 1950s, he continued to compose. The most notable works of the decade were ‘Billy Budd’ (1951), ‘Gloriana’ (1953), and ‘The Turn of the Screw’ (1954).
He slowed down in the 1960s. Despite this, he created a few masterpieces, the most well-known of which being ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (1960) and ‘The War Requiem’ (1962). In reality, he achieved the pinnacles of grandeur with his later work.
He began work on ‘Owen Wingrave’ for television in 1967, but did not complete it until August 1970. It first aired in May of 1971. ‘Death in Venice’ (1973), ‘A Time There Was’ (1974), ‘Third String Quartet’ (1975), and ‘Phaedra’ are among his most recent compositions (1975).
Major Projects of Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Bitten is best known for his 1962 composition, “The War Requiem,” a large-scale, non-liturgical requiem based on the Latin Mass for the Dead and interlaced with nine of Wilfred Owen’s poems about war. It was largely written in 1961 and finished in January 1962.
The work is arranged for soprano, tenor, and baritone soloists, chorus, organ, full orchestra, and chamber orchestra, and lasts 90 minutes. It was initially performed for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, which was erected after the original was bombed out during WWII.
Achievements & Awards
For ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ Benjamin Britten received the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in 1961. For ‘The War Requiem,’ he won Grammy Awards in three categories in 1963: Classical Album of the Year, Best Classical Composition by a Contemporary Composer, and Best Classical Choral Performance. He was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame posthumously in 1998.
He also won the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1964, the Sonning Award in 1967, and the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 1968. (1974).
In 1953, Britten was awarded a Companion of Honour. He received the Order of Merit in 1965 and was created a life peer in July 1976, becoming Baron Britten of Aldeburgh in the County of Suffolk.
Personal History and Legacy
Benjamin Britten met Peter Neville Luard Pears in 1937, and the two musicians became fast friends. Their connection began as a platonic one. They married later that year, in 1939, during a trip to the United States. They remained companions in every sphere since then, till Britten’s death.
Britten died of congestive heart failure on December 4, 1976. Despite the fact that he was given burial at Westminster Abbey, he chose to be buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Aldeburgh because he wanted to be buried next to his life partner Peter Pears, who died in 1986.
Much later, in 2013, Australian author Paul Kildea stated in his book ‘Benjamin Britten: A Life in the Twentieth Century’ that his heart failure was caused by undiscovered syphilis, which could have been the result of Pears’ liaisons with other partners. Britten’s doctors, on the other hand, have refuted it.
The Red House, Aldeburgh, has been restored to its original architecture, where Britten and Pears lived and worked together until their deaths. The Britten-Pears Foundation, formed to promote their musical legacy, now calls it home. His legacy is also commemorated with a memorial stone in Westminster Abbey’s north choir aisle, which was unveiled in 1978. The Benjamin Britten Music Academy was founded in Lowestoft in 1979 in his honor.
Estimated Net Worth
Benjamin Britten’s net worth was estimated to be between $1 and $5 million before his death, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, IMDb, and other online sources. As a professional composer, he was able to make money. He is an Englishman.