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on 5 February 2014
Britten once wrote to Pears : "what have I done to deserve such an artist and man to write for?" If the artist seems well known, it may be of interest to try and learn more about the man. But the book is valuable in both respects.

This biography of Sir Peter Pears is written by a person who knew him well and is more reliable and of course also more detailed than what can be found about Pears in some of Britten's biographies. It is also a good complement to any Britten biography and especially corrective of Kildea's speculations. It gives Pears his proper place in Britten's life - a "rock" and "a mother hen" among other things - and reveals much of Pears's interesting personality through a well researched narrative and many excerpts of letters to Britten (some of them unpublished in "Letters from a Life") and to others, parts of his travel diaries, commentaries of Britten's and others' music (Schubert, Bach). I found the many details about Pears's singing and his other musical skills (as a piano accompanist for example, but he also played the bassoon and the viola and had been an organist) and the stories and anecdotes (musical and otherwise) exceptionally interesting. A pleasant reading also.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 26 May 2016
Christopher Headington, the author of 'Peter Pears: A Biography' was first introduced to Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears by his teacher when he was a still a student at the Royal Academy of Music. From 1954 to 1964 Christopher Headington taught music at Lancing College (the public school attended by Peter Pears from 1923-1928) and it was there that he performed with Pears before taking up a post at Oxford University. Mr Headington is a composer and pianist, a writer on music, and a broadcaster and teacher, and is also the author of: 'Britten (Illustrated Lives)'. He has been an ardent admirer of Benjamin Britten's music and Peter Pears' singing for well over thirty years, in addition to knowing both Britten and Pears personally - and, as such, is very well-placed to write this authorised biography of the English tenor Peter Pears (1910-1986). However, is this book a biography, or is it a hagiography? Fortunately, although written with affection and respect, this is not a hagiography, but there are aspects of the singer's life that are perhaps not thoroughly delved into - which was not a problem for me, as I just wanted to read a fairly concise book about Peter Pears' life before embarking on the much more detailed biography of Benjamin Britten: 'Benjamin Britten: A Biography' by Humphrey Carpenter, and wanted to learn more about Pears' life before he met Britten, and also after Britten's death (in 1976). In Christopher Headington's very readable account, which is scattered with extracts from letters and diary entries, we learn of Peter Pears' journey from musical schoolboy, to his time at Oxford (where he didn't complete his degree), to his brief period working as a schoolteacher at his old prep school, to his two-terms at the Royal College of Music, and then on to his time as a BBC singer. We read of Pears' meeting of the composer Benjamin Britten, with whom he shared a lifelong and loving relationship; we learn of their musical collaboration and of Peter Pears' role as inspiration and muse for Britten, and of their founding of the Aldeburgh Festival, and more. Towards the end of his biography Mr Headington poses the question; 'Would Peter Pears have become a great singer without Benjamin Britten?' And: 'Would Britten have been the same composer without Pears?' I shall leave his opinions for prospective readers to discover for themselves.

4 Stars.
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