Benjamin Britten: A Biography

Humphrey Carpenter

Throughout his life, Benjamin Britten met with applause to his face and whispers from behind his back. Arguably England’s greatest composer since Purcell, Britten created modern classics such as Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, Turn of the Screw, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Death in Venice, many of which contained the theme of the corruption of innocence which was central to his work. As Britten is one of a select few modern composers who have maintained a wide audience, the Metropolitan Opera mounted productions of two of his operas during the 1996 season alone. Britten was a child prodigy who some say never grew up. He maintained a lifelong personal and creative relationship with the great tenor Peter Pears. He rather much enjoyed the company of young boys and was known for unceremoniously severing ties with collaborators and friends once they had served their usefulness to him. British bass Robert Tear once commented: “There was a great, huge abyss in his soul. That’s my explanation of why the music becomes thinner and thinner as time passed. He got into the valley of the shadow of death and couldn’t get out.” Considered by Anthony Burgess to be “one of the best biographies of a musician that I have read; accurate, humane, moving,” Benjamin Britten: A Biography is an important addition to the literature of music. JAT

Publisher: Scribner's
Hardback: 677 pages