Britten, Benjamin

1913 - 1976

British composer, conductor, and pianist; especially admired for his skillful setting of words in his dramatic operas.

Stravinsky and Mahler were early influences, but Britten's technique gave his early music a personal definition, shown in orchestral works (Bridge Variations for strings, 1937; Piano Concerto).

In 1939 he left England for the USA; there he wrote his first opera, to Auden's libretto (Paul Bunyan, 1941).

In 1942 he returned and began to concentrate on settings of English verse, which signalled a new beginning in English opera.

Many of his dramatic works were written for the Aldeburgh Festival, as were many of the instrumental and vocal works Britten produced for favoured performers. For Rostropovich he wrote the Cello Symphony as well as a sonata and three solo suites.

His closing masterpiece, was a return to the abstract in the String Quartet no.3 .


Elgar, Edward

1857 - 1934

British composer whose works in the late 19th century orchestral style brought a Renaissance of English music.

In the earlier part of Elgar's career as a composer, he wrote several short pieces which became very popular. At first he was considered a 'provincial' composer until the great success of the 'Enigma' Variations in 1899, and by the outbreak of World War I he was the most celebrated living British composer.

In 1917 he moved to the rural setting of Sussex, where his three chamber works were written.

The first performance of the Sonata, by W.H. Reed and Sir Landon Ronald, was a triumph; two months later all three chamber works were given in the same concert in London, in which the Quartet players were A. Sammons, W.H. Reed, R. Jeremy