Cover image for Britten
Matthews, David, 1943-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Haus, 2003.
Physical Description:
ix, 182 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 21 cm
General Note:
Includes index.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML410.B853 M38 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Benjamin Britten (1913-76) was the most prolific and celebrated English composer of the mid-20th century. Britten shot to international fame with his operas performed by the English Opera Group in 1947.

Author Notes

David Matthews is one of the leading composers of his generation, his music acclaimed worldwide. In the 1960s he worked as an assistant to Benjamin Britten. He is the Artistic Director of the Deal Festival

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Benjamin Britten's music, often simple and sparsely scored, incorporates elements from Mahler, Wagner, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg but proclaims an individual style. Britten (1913-76) capably composed for string quartet, solo and choral voices, and chamber and large orchestras. His best-known works include the operas Turn of the Screw, Billy Budd, Albert Herring, and Peter Grimes; the orchestral variations called The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; and the largest expression of his pacificism, the War Requiem. He and many friends were homosexual, and homosexual poets, such as Auden, contributed words for songs he wrote for his partner, tenor Peter Pears. Matthews, a composer himself, worked with Britten as a copyist and learned much from him. He concentrates on the music in synopses of the operas and brief analyses of the instrumental music. In passing, he notes Britten's propensity to depression, major events in his personal life, his working associates, and his music's maturation over the years. Matthews covers both music and life very concisely yet thoroughly and engagingly. --Alan Hirsch Copyright 2004 Booklist

Choice Review

Matthews writes here about the composer whom he served as copyist and editor during the late 1960s. His primary sources are Britten's published letters; Britten's published and unpublished diaries and other materials held in the Britten-Pears Library, Aldeburgh, UK; and Humphrey Carpenter's comprehensive biography Benjamin Britten (CH, Dec'93). The book is accessible in virtually all respects: the writing is clear and straightforward, and Matthews limits technical discussion to mention of keys and a few basic forms (he includes no music examples). Sidebars (printed in contrasting color) provide biographical sketches of people who had a place in the composer's career and quotations from Britten's letters, works, etc. Numerous photographs pepper the book. Also included are endnotes, a chronology of Britten's life along with concurrent historical and cultural events, and a list of works and recordings (by genre). Given the broad audience for whom the book appears to be intended, serious students of the composer will want Carpenter's biography or Peter Evans's study of the music (The Music of Benjamin Britten, 1979). ^BSumming Up: Optional. Lower-division undergraduates and general readers. R. Stahura emeritus, Ripon College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
A Boy Was Bornp. 1
Go Play, Boy, Playp. 17
Coldest Love Will Warm to Actionp. 29
America Is What You Choose to Make Itp. 51
What Harbour Shelters Peace?p. 68
Our Firm-United Soulsp. 83
On the Infinite Seap. 100
Sleep's Healing Powerp. 119
In Peace I Have Found My Imagep. 129
Death Will Give Me Freedomp. 145
Notesp. 158
Chronologyp. 162
Rediscovering the Young Brittenp. 170
Works and Recordingsp. 171
Indexp. 176
Picture Sourcesp. 182