Edward Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft on 22nd November (the Feast-Day of St Cecilia, patron saint of music) 1913. He studied with John Ireland and Frank Bridge and began his career working for the GPO Film Unit. In 1939 Britten relocated to America, motivated in part by his pacifist beliefs; whilst in the US he composed Les Illuminations and the Sinfonia da Requiem, and eventually returned to England in 1942.
The instant success of Peter Grimes three years later cemented his reputation and a stream of other operas followed, most with leading roles written for his life-partner and muse Peter Pears who also inspired many of his song-cycles. Other major works include the String Quartets, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and the mighty War Requiem, written for the consecration of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral in 1962.
Britten spent much of his life in Aldeburgh, where he founded his own Festival in 1948; the Festival still takes place each June, and his passion for encouraging music-making in young people lives on in the form of The Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme. He was made a peer in 1976, just months before his death from a heart condition.
You can view Presto's hand-picked selection of favourite Britten recordings here.
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