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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent resource for the interested and the curious, 1 April 2009
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J. Hutchings "jjhutchings" (Framlingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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What a truly excellent book. Living in Suffolk for four years, I felt it time to get to grips with its best-known composer. Michael Oliver's book is superbly presented: Phaidon press are particularly good at this sort of thing. Pictures are afforded decent space, the text is neatly presented and legibly spaced, and the quality of paper shows this to be a decent publication.

As for the words - I sat gripped as I devoured the book in two days flat. Britten's life is portrayed step by step, and one gets to grips with a truly fascinating character. The cross-referencing throughout the booko to other composers and artists (particularly during Britten's time in America) was most useful.

A very splendid publication.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good intro to BRITTEN'S MUSIC, 31 July 2012
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This review is from: Benjamin Britten (20th Century Composers) (Paperback)
In this composers' series, the author focusses on Britten's composing not his private life or work as pianist and conductor. He looks at Britten's music from films (e.g., for the BBC), opera (e.g., Peter Grimes, The Rape of Lucretia), lieder, and church and choral music (e.g., the War Requiem for Coventry Cathedral). The book's sophisticated and pretty much requires knowledge of music.

Important strands in Britten's life included pacifism, homosexuality, and love of Suffolk and the sea. Pacifism is wonderfully expressed in the War Requiem premiered in Coventry Cathedral in 1962 where vocal soloists were Peter Pears, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Heather Harper; the libretto included Wilfred Owen poems.

Britten (1913-1976) had a long-term relationship with Peter Pears (1910-1986) - they met in 1936, and much of Britten's music was written with Pears tenor voice ("dry and white"?) in mind. Homosexuality was illegal in England till 1967 and that perhaps explains Britten's defensiveness and need for privacy.

Links to Suffolk, to Aldeburgh and the sea, are many. Britten was born in Lowestoft and spent his childhood there; he was hugely influenced by Frank Bridge who gave him music (and life) lessons starting in 1928. Britten and Pears left the UK April 1939 for the USA, but when Britten encountered George Crabbe's (1754-1832) poems he felt the need to be rooted in Suffolk, and he and Pears returned to the UK to live April 1942 (registering as conscientious objectors). In 1948 they (and librettist Eric Crozier) founded the Aldeburgh festival. Peter Grimes (premiered 1945) is based on a libretto adapted from George Crabbe's poem "The Borough".

I hadn't realised Britten and Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) were such close friends. Britten wrote several cello pieces for Rostropovich, and Rostropovich's wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, was to have sung at the premier of War Requiem but the USSR wouldn't let her attend.
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Benjamin Britten (20th Century Composers)
Benjamin Britten (20th Century Composers) by Michael Oliver (Paperback - 1 Mar. 2008)
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