Benjamin Britten - A Time There Was  [DVD]  [NTSC]
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Made at the request of the Britten Estate, this film - thought to be the definitive portrait of the great composer - tells of one of the most profound love affairs of the 20th Century, between Britten and his lover and life-long companion and inspiration, Peter Pears. At a time when it was illegal to be openly homosexual, Britten & Pears faced up to a hostile world with unflinching dignity, producing a string of masterpieces that, together with the works of Vaughan Williams, established English music as internationally pre-eminent in the middle years of the 20th century.
A captivating and insightful documentary about the tortured soul of Benjamin Britten... essential viewing. --* * * * * Classic FM
An alluring portrait. --* * * * BBC Music Magazine
[This film] creates a picture of the whole man, from precocious childhood in Lowestoft to death, and the whole artist alongside. Even if (like me), your knowledge of classical music as a whole is sparse at best, Britten's remarkable life story, and the struggles and ideas within it, are of interest on their own. Palmer shows you how to hear all the different stages in his life, from radical young 20-something to illness-ravaged old man, in the accompanying works. You begin to see beneath the beauty of the music to the conflicts underneath. --* * * * - Stool Pigeon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Nevertheless, Tony Palmer conjures his familiar magic in constructing what is still a vivid and enlightening film study of his subject (cf. his musical biographies of Wagner, Walton, Arnold, etc.). As in much of his work, Palmer demonstrates the deftest of hands in combining archive footage plus his own original material with lengthy, illuminating interviews with family, friends and contemporaries.Read more ›
Above all there is the narrative of Peter Pears, who appears many times, speaking or performing, always with a dignity, intelligence and openness which add a very great deal to this film. Dry-eyed when many would find this impossible, and the more eloquent for that, he gives a most moving account of Britten's death (in his arms), and that section of the film is quite wonderful.Read more ›
Members of Britten's family are also interviewed and it is interesting to hear about Britten's childhood from them. Other contributors include not only the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Imogen Holst, and Rudolf Bing, but also a housekeeper, his final nurse, and those with whom he stayed during his sojourn in the US.
There are extensive wonderful extracts in this film, both of his music and of archive film. Perforce, much is missed out; notable by their absence are his `Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra', `Les Illuminations', the `Serenade', `Gloriana', the `Sinfonia da Requiem', and the `War Requiem'. There are extracts of some of these, played over film, but they are out of context with no discussion given to them. It is all the more strange as the first and last in my list are referred to as key pieces of this composer in the DVD's sleevenotes. Missing too is what other composers (apart from Bernstein) thought of his music.
But what we do have here is one hundred minutes of the man and his music. The end is moving (though not as moving as the DVD `The Hidden Heart'), and - given that much of the film is told from Pears's angle - the DVD is a `must-have' for anyone with an interest in the life and music of this often-superb composer.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
A perfect portrait, painful at times but made with insight and understanding.Published on 18 Aug. 2014 by Mrs. Gillian Reynolds
Plenty of archive material, excerpts from concerts and interviews with colleagues, musicians and people who knew Britten. Read morePublished on 18 Mar. 2013 by Seoulprovider
This outstanding film provides a very important record of one of the greatest British composers and the people with whom he worked.Published on 7 Jan. 2013 by Mary E-N