November 22nd marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten, and commemorative concerts and events are taking place around the world to celebrate the life and works of one of the greatest composers in 20th century British classical music.
Not only was Britten a towering figure in British – and international – music, but he and his long-time partner, Peter Pears, who was regarded as one of the century’s outstanding tenors, left a remarkable legacy – “…. some of the finest music for the voice ever written, a revival of English opera, the Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, an artist development programme that has nurtured many leading performers, and our sister organisation, Aldeburgh Music” (The Britten-Pears Foundation).
Naturally, many commemorative events are taking place in the United Kingdom, the focal point being Aldeburgh, where Britten and Pears made their home. Since November 2012, Aldeburgh Music’s Britten Centenary programme has been conducting a year-long celebration of his music, a celebration centred around his home county of Suffolk – the landscape and the community which were both so central to his life and work.
The festival culminates in the Britten Centenary Weekend – from November 21st to 24th – presented in association with BBC Radio 3 which will be broadcasting from Aldeburgh over the entire weekend. Details of the performances can be found on the website http://www.brittenaldeburgh.co.uk.
The Red House, in the Suffolk town of Aldeburgh, is where Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears lived and worked, from 1957 until their deaths – Britten’s in 1976, Pears’ in 1986. Now the home of the Britten-Pears Foundation, it’s open to visitors who can – for the first time – see the Studio in which Britten composed, and which has recently been restored, as well as the Gallery which has a new exhibition on the composer and his music. The interiors of the house are re-presented just as they were in the mid-1960s, including the historic Library room, and there’s an Archive which has been purpose-built to house Britten’s internationally-significant collections.
The Britten-Pears Foundation is also mounting a special exhibition in his birthplace, the town of Lowestoft. Here, for the first time, the 1930s manuscripts – which Britten wrote there as a boy – are displayed, together with other childhood mementos.
Apart from the celebrations across the United Kingdom, there are over 1000 performances of Britten’s work and related events, taking place around the world over the next two weeks – across the United States, from New York to San Francisco, in Toronto, Montreal, St Petersburg, Moscow, Paris, Madrid, Leipzig, Berlin, Budapest, Helsinki, Gothenburg, Bologna, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Sydney, Auckland, and many other centres. The world has come together to celebrate the centenary of the man who was born 100 years ago this month, in the English seaside town of Lowestoft – on the feast day of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music.
The Britten-Pears Foundation is currently working on a catalogue of the complete works of the composer, one of the Foundation’s major projects for the centenary. In this video, Dr Lucy Walker and Jonathan Manton introduce the Britten Thematic Catalogue, explain what such a catalogue is, and reveal how this one will be different from traditional publications of this kind.
For a complete run-down of events celebrating Britten 100, please visit