Britten (1913-1976)

Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft on 22 November 1913, and his musical talent was obvious from an early age. He started piano lessons at seven, the viola when he was 10 years old, and he studied composition at The Royal College of Music as well as taking private tuition.
His early thoughts were to become a concert pianist, but somehow the composing took him over. He was nevertheless a brilliant pianist and performed regularly with his singing partner Peter Peers, for whom he often composed specifically.
Britten is reckoned to have been one of the world’s best twentieth century composers, and was the first composer to be given a life peerage. His musical output was phenomenal, ranging from opera to orchestral, choral, chamber music, and he often composed specifically for young people and amateurs. Among his best known works are The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, his War Requiem, the operas Peter Grimes and Death in Venice (both of the latter being more than a little autobiographical).
He also very involved in radio and television broadcasts of classical music and opera, and he spent some time in America and Canada.
He did not enjoy good health in his later years, and during heart surgery, he had a slight stroke. Nevertheless in time, he did resume composition, although he would not agree to the operation until after he had completed his opera Death in Venice!

Britten’s contribution to music was further honoured in 2013 - the centennary of his birth - with a special release of a 50-pence coin. It is beautifully designed with his name within double music staves either side of “COMPOSER BORN 1913”, and Lord Tennyson’s words  (which Britten famously set to music) “BLOW BUGLE BLOW” above, and  “SET THE WILD ECHOES FLYING” below. He is the first British composer to be so honoured.

Soirées Musicales
In 1936, Britten was asked to provide music for a documentary and he chose to orchestrate five piano pieces by Rossini. He later adapted the pieces into Soirées Musicales, which was used in 1938 as the score for a ballet. It was the world championship test piece in 2006.