He wrote the first successful English opera since Purcell, along with a collection of songs, choral compositions, and ballets that have assured him an important place in 20th-century music. Michael Oliver, in one of Phaidon's series, 20th-Century Composers, offers a compact, useful introduction to British composer Benjamin Britten and his work, from folksong settings to church music and the great opera Peter Grimes.
Frank about Britten's homosexuality and his long-time relationship with the tenor Peter Pears, the book is never prurient and seldom gossipy. Like all the Phaidon books, this one is relatively brief, well written, well illustrated, and not too technical.
From Library Journal
Similar to other volumes in Phaidon's "20th Century Composers" series, including Oliver's own Igor Stravinsky (LJ 2/15/96), this latest effort treats British composer Britten's life and works in strict chronological order, with detailed, easily intelligible discussions of major compositions. He deals forthrightly with Britten's homosexuality and its influence on his music without stooping to innuendo and gossip. Some personal opinions surface but do not detract measurably from the text, which illustrates Britten's development from youthful studies with Frank Bridge and John Ireland to later acclaim as one of Great Britain's most important contemporary composers. Abundant photographs and illuminating quotes from Britten's own writings are interspersed throughout. This book covers the same territory as Humphrey Carpenter's excellent Benjamin Britten: A Biography (LJ 6/15/93), albeit in a considerably condensed format. Enthusiastically recommended for all music collections as well as for general academic or public libraries that do not hold Carpenter's work.Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, Ohio
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.