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Letters from a Life Vol 1: 1923-39: Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten: 1923-39 v. 1 Paperback – 22 Jun 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (22 Jun. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571193994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571193998
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 927,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

Letters from a Life Vol 1: 1923-39: Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten covers the period of the enormously important composer's life in which he makes the acquaintance of W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood as well as, crucially, Peter Pears, with whom he would form a lifelong musical and personal relationship.

About the Author

Benjamin Britten (1913 - 76) began composing at the age of six, and his first compositions were published while he was still a student. He made a living through writing music for documentary films in the 1930s, beginning a collaboration with W H Auden which continued when he and his life-long partner, the singer Peter Pears, moved to the USA in 1939. Returning in 1942 he began work on his operatic masterpiece, Peter Grimes, the first of the many operas that dominated his career.His greatest public success came with the War Requiem in 1962; he died four years after the completion of his final opera, Death in Venice.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nigel J. Morgan on 21 July 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having collected all 6 volumes over the past few years, it is only now I am beginning my journey through these impressive, scholarly volumes.

Donald Mitchell's 60+ page introduction is a lucid and insightful introduction to Britten's life and work. However, what follows is simply jaw dropping. The diaries and letters are superbly annotated, illuminating and bringing to life these early communications. The annotations for a single letter often run to 5 pages or more - and they are absolutely fascinating. This is an extremely detailed but definitely not a dry read.

OK, Britten's correspondence contains much banality e.g. details of meals, shopping trips, haircuts, tennis matches etc. But his communications also portray in vivid detail a bygone era. In particular, they provide valuable insights into music making and concert going in the 1930s. Reading this volume is like stepping into another world. The writing is so unpolished and spontaneous yet so vibrant and alive.

Britten's personality leaps off the page. He is revealed as an extremely critical, frequently churlish and indeed rather unlikeable young man. His petulant and flippant dismissal of so many conductors and musicians of the period (especially Adrian Boult) does little to endear him to the reader. Nevertheless, I found certain passages, for example those describing the death of his mother, really quite moving. I also love the fact that Mitchell does not correct Britten's dreadful spelling. This gives a touching sense of authenticity.

The volume is peppered with reproductions of concert programmes, manuscripts and other documents and my only criticism is that these are so small they are rendered illegible. A real pity.

Overall, this superb volume provides an extraordinary insight into the mind of the developing composer and is a compulsive read for Britten enthusiasts. I relish the prospect of experiencing the other 5 volumes.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating Autobiographical Biography 27 Oct. 2010
By S. Southall - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Donald Mitchell was Britten's preferred biographer, who on viewing the archive of Britten's correspondence decided to let Britten speak in his own voice, with Mitchell contributing extensive annotations which amount to a combination biography/autobiography, a fascinating insight into the great 20th century composer. We see Britten the musical prodigy, follow his studies through his diaries, see his stresses with teachers and colleagues, his early successes and early confrontations with death. We see Britten the very tough businessman(from an early age), Britten the dazzled compatriot of Auden and Isherwood at the beginning of the documentary film movement, Britten the pacifist suffering through the Spanish Civil War, Britten the bewildered gay man, hoping to lead a decent life but not yet fallen securely into the arms of Peter Pears. This volume ends with Britten and Pears departing for America in the wake of Auden and Isherwood, WW II close at hand, looking to create careers in the new world. This series is my recommended biography over everything written about Britten. Superb.
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