Benjamin Britten

From BoyWiki

Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, (22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976) was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British classical music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. His best-known works include the opera Peter Grimes (1945), the War Requiem (1962) and the orchestral showpiece The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1945).

Born in Suffolk, the son of a dentist, Britten showed talent from an early age. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London and privately with the composer Frank Bridge. Britten first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy was Born in 1934. With the premiere of Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to international fame. Over the next 28 years, he wrote 14 more operas, establishing himself as one of the leading 20th-century composers in the genre. In addition to large-scale operas for Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden, he wrote "chamber operas" for small forces, suitable for performance in venues of modest size. Among the best known of these is The Turn of the Screw (1954). Recurring themes in the operas are the struggle of an outsider against a hostile society, and the corruption of innocence.

Britten's other works range from orchestral to choral, solo vocal, chamber and instrumental as well as film music. He took a great interest in writing music for children and amateur performers, including the opera Noye's Fludde, a Missa Brevis, and the song collection Friday Afternoons. He often composed with particular performers in mind. His most frequent and important muse was his personal and professional partner, the Peter Pears. Britten was a celebrated pianist and conductor, performing many of his own works in concert and on record. He also performed and recorded works by others, such as Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg concertos, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's symphonies, and song cycles by Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann.

Together with Pears and the librettist and producer Eric Crozier, Britten founded the annual Aldeburgh Festival in 1948, and he was responsible for the creation of Snape Maltings concert hall in 1967. In his last year, he was the first composer to be given a life peer age.


Throughout his adult life, Britten had a particular rapport with children and enjoyed close friendships with several boys, particularly those in their early teens. The writer John Bridcut sees significance in evidence that Britten mentally regarded himself as perpetually 13 years old. Bridcut views this as manifest both in the Letts diaries Britten bought and used well into his adult life, in which he wrote several statistics relevant to himself when that age,[1] and in his remark to Imogen Holst, "I'm still thirteen".[2] The first such friendship was with Piers Dunkerley, 13 years old in 1934 when Britten was aged 20.[3] Other boys Britten befriended were the young David Hemmings and Michael Crawford, both of whom sang treble roles in his works in the 1950s.[4] Hemmings later said, "In all of the time that I spent with him he never abused that trust", and Crawford wrote "I cannot say enough about the kindness of that great man... he had a wonderful patience and affinity with young people. He loved music, and loved youngsters caring about music."

The composer met the thirteen year old son of Hermann Scherchen in 1934. Their relationship lasted six years, and inspired at least one major work, Young Apollo.[5]

Britten also slept with 13 year old Bobby Rothman:

"When Britten stayed with the Rothman family, he shared a room with the thirteen-year-old Bobby:

many an evening we used to spend […] a lot of time just really talking he in the bed next to me […] His fondness for me was something that was beyond my normal social connections, and I was a little overwhelmed that someone should be so fond of me […] I can still remember us talking late at night one time, and finding when it was really time to call it quits and go to sleep […] he said, ‘Bobby, would you mind terribly if, before we fell asleep, I came over and gave you a hug and a kiss?’ It was just one of those touching moments […] And I’ve got to say I really did not know what to do except say, ‘no, no I don’t mind’, and he gently got up and gave me a gentle hug and kiss and said goodnight.[6]

It was long suspected by several of Britten's close associates that there was something exceptional about his attraction to boys: Auden referred to Britten's "attraction to thin-as-a-board juveniles;... to the sexless and innocent",[7] and Pears once wrote to Britten: "remember there are lovely things in the world still– children, boys, sunshine, the sea, Mozart, you and me".[8] In public, the matter was little discussed during Britten's lifetime and much discussed after it.The journalist Martin Kettle wrote in 2012 that although there is no evidence of wrongful conduct, it is important that allegations of pedophilia be openly discussed, both to avoid covering up criminal behavior and to avoid oversimplifying the complexity of Britten's sexuality and creativity.[9] Carpenter's 1992 biography closely examined the evidence, as do later studies of Britten, most particularly John Bridcut's Britten's Children (2006), which concentrates on Britten’s friendships and relationships with various children and adolescents. Some commentators have continued to question Britten's conduct, sometimes very sharply.[10][11] Carpenter and Bridcut conclude that he held any sexual impulses under firm control and kept the relationships affectionate, including bed-sharing, kissing and skinny dipping, but strictly platonic.[12] [13]

In the writing "This Day In Pedo History: February 25" it states:

  • 1935 - "I write the songs that make the young boys sing" - Britten's a cappella choral composition called A Boy Was Born had its debut performance on this date. Being the good pedo that he was, he composed it specifically to be performed, in part, by a boys choir. This was one of his first major works to receive critical acclaim, and helped to fully launch his career. The title might suggest to some a pedoish theme to the piece, but in fact it refers to the birth of Jesus, the story of a completely different type of boy worship.[14]

See Also


  1. Bridcut (2006), pp. 1–2
  2. Bridcut (2006), p. 8
  3. Bridcut (2006), p. 3
  4. Bridcut (2006), plate 13; and Carpenter, pp. 356–358 and 385
  5. Lie back and think of Britten "Adam Mars-Jones finds that John Bridcut has set himself a daunting task in Britten's Children - to prove whether 'Darling Benjamin' was a mentor or a menace to boys" Sunday June 4, 2006; The Observer [9]
  6. cite book |last1=Mitchell D. |first1=Reed P. |title=Letters from a Life Volume 3 (1946-1951): The Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten |date=2011 |publisher=Faber & Faber |asin=B008E5PYZY |pages=784 |accessdate=27 April 2016
  7. Carpenter, p. 164
  8. Bridcut (2006), p. 6
  14. Author unknown. "This Day In Pedo History: February 25", 2003. Retrieved on 3-10-15.