Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh
Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh, 1913–76, English composer. Britten is widely considered the most significant British composer since Purcell. Britten's most characteristic expression is found in his vocal music. His many song cycles and choral works include A Boy Was Born (1933) and A Ceremony of Carols (1942). Britten's great War Requiem (1962), based on the bitter war poems of Wilfred Owen, was sung at the dedication in England of the reconstructed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed during World War II. In his operas, which include Paul Bunyan (1941), Peter Grimes (1945), The Rape of Lucretia (1946), The Beggar's Opera (1948), The Turn of the Screw (1954), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960), and Death in Venice (1973), he displayed a sensitivity to text and a fondness for variation techniques, dynamic dissonance, and the use of ground basses. Britten's instrumental works, some composed when he was a youth, display considerable technical brilliance and colorful orchestration. A notable and popular example, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946), written for a film, is based on a theme by Purcell. In 1976 Queen Elizabeth II named him a life peer.
See biographies by I. Holst (2d ed. 1970), E. W. White (new ed. 1970), and H. Carpenter (1992); study by P. Evans (1979).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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