The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Britten, Benjamin.
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, O.M., C.H. (b. November 22, 1913 – d. December 4, 1976)
was a British composer, conductor, and pianist.
Britten was born in Lowestoft in Suffolk, the son of a dentist and a talented amateur musician.
He schooled at Gresham's School. In 1927, he began private lessons with
Frank Bridge. He also studied, less happily, at the Royal College of Music
under John Ireland and with some input from Vaughan Williams.
His first compositions to attract wide attention were performed in 1934.
The following year he met the poet W.H. Auden with whom he collaborated, and
in 1936 met tenor Peter Pears, who was to become his
life-partner and musical collaborator.
At the end of the Second World War he premiered the first of a series of
operas, Peter Grimes, his greatest success so far. Britten was
however encountering opposition from sectors of the English musical
establishment and gradually withdrew from the London scene, founding the
English Opera Group in 1947 and the Aldeburgh Festival the following year,
partly (though not solely) to showcase his own works.
Britten was a lifelong devotee of youth, and his best known work is
The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946),
which was composed to accompany Instruments of the Orchestra, an educational
film produced by the British government, narrated and conducted by
Malcolm Sargent. It has the subtitle 'Variations and Fugue on a Theme
of Purcell', and takes a melody from Henry Purcell's Abdelazar as its
central theme. Britten gives individual variations to each of the sections of the orchestra,
starting with the woodwind, then the
string instruments, the brass instruments and finally the percussion.
Britten then brings the whole orchestra together again in a fugue before
restating the theme to close the work. The original film's spoken
commentary is often omitted in concert performances and recordings.
The opera Grimes marked the start of a series of his English operas, of which Billy Budd
(1951) and The Turn of the Screw (1954) and A Midsummer Night's Dream were particularly admired.
These operas share common themes, with that of the romantic 'outsider' particularly
prevalent. Most feature such a character, excluded or misunderstood by society;
often this is the protagonist, such as Peter Grimes and Owen Wingrave in
their eponymous operas.
The greatest success of Britten's career was, however, the musically more
conventional War Requiem, written for the opening of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral in 1962.
The War Requiem was later filmed by Derek Jarman.
In the last decade or so of his life, Britten suffered from increasing ill-health
and his late works became progressively more sparse in texture. They include
the opera of the novel by Thomas Mann, Death in Venice (1973),
the Suite on English Folk Tunes "A Time There Was" and Third String Quartet
(1975), which drew on material from Death in Venice.
Britten was made a life peer on 2 July 1976 as Baron Britten, of Aldeburgh in
the County of Suffolk. A few months later he died of heart failure at his house
in Aldeburgh. He is buried in the churchyard there.
Humphrey Carpenter. Benjamin Britten: a biography (1992)