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1976: 'Genius' composer Benjamin Britten dies

Benjamin Britten, considered to be Britain's leading composer, has died aged 63.

He had been fighting ill health since a heart operation in 1973.

Mr Britten died at his home, in Aldeburgh, in Suffolk.

His friend Peter Pears a renowned tenor for whom he created many roles, was with him when he died.

Lord Britten, who was made a life peer in the Queen's birthday honours list this year, was a favourite of both performers and the public.


"What matters to us now is that people want to use our music"

Benjamin Britten

Tributes have begun flooding in for the composer who was held in the same regard as Vaughan Williams and Elgar and was said to compose daily.

Donald Mitchell, his friend and biographer, said Mr Britten was "an authentic genius".

Commentators have described him as a "first-rate pianist" who endeared himself to many with his understated modesty.

He once said: "What matters to us now is that people want to use our music. For that, as I see it is our job. To be useful to the living."

Lord Britten is considered to be among the first British composers to have captured the imagination of audiences at home and abroad.

International acclaim

Among his most famous works are the operas Peter Grimes and Billy Budd and the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

Lord Britten was aptly born on the feast of St Cecilia, the patroness of music, on 22 November, in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

In 1930, aged 16 and with many compositions already to his name, Lord Britten entered the Royal College of Music in London.

A convinced pacifist, he emigrated to North America during the war and was exempt from military service on his return in 1942.

But he never stopped composing works for film, stage and opera.

By the time of his death he had achieved international fame as a composer, conductor and musician.

In Context
Lord Britten's life-long companion, Peter Pears, died in 1986.

That same year, Lord Britten's estate was reconstructed and The Britten-Pears Foundation, a registered charity, was founded.

It promotes their musical works and writings and the principles of musical education and performance developed by them.

An annual Aldeburgh Festival is held each June, and an annual Britten Festival in the autumn.

And new musical work is encouraged through The Benjamin Britten International Competition for Composers.

A school in Lowestoft has been named after the town's most famous son, Lord Britten.


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