For Benjamin Britten’s hundredth birthday, Peter Walls looked at the composer’s life and music over two programmes: the first considers a range of Britten’s works; the second is devoted to opera.
Britten was an avid opera goer and could be very critical of other composers. After seeing Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden, he wrote in a letter: "It is the most awful work; common and vulgar, very boring, no subtleties, poor tunes."
The image above is a sculpture by Maggi Hambling called Scallop. It stands four metres tall on the beach at Aldeburgh, dedicated to Britten who used to walk there in the afternoons. A quote from Peter Grimes "I hear those voices that will not be drowned" is cut out of the steel.
BRITTEN: Albert Herring - City of London Sinfonia/ Richard Hickox (Chandos CHAN 10036)
BRITTEN: Thisbe's lament - Ian Bostridge, New London Children's Choir, London SO/ Colin Davis (Philips454 122)
DONIZETTI: Ohimè sorge il tremendo fantasma - Joan Sutherland (sop), Luciano Pavarotti (ten), Sherrill Milnes (bar), Nicolai Ghiaurov (bass), Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Chorus & Orch/ Richard Bonynge (Decca410 193)
VERDI: Otello excerpt - National Philharmonic Orch/ James Levine (RCA RD 82951)
BRITTEN: Over the water over the ocean, from Billy Budd - London Symphony Chorus & Orch/ Daniel Harding (Virgin5 19039)
BRITTEN: Peter Grimes excerpt - Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Chorus & Orch/ Benjamin Britten (Decca 414 577)
BRITTEN: I accept the verdict, from Billy Budd - London Symphony Chorus & Orch/ Daniel Harding (Virgin5 19039)
BRITTEN: M08 Gloriana excpt - SM33 - Orchestra and Chorus of the Welsh National Opera/ Charles Mackerras (Argo440 213)
BRITTEN: M09a Gloriana - Orchestra and Chorus of the Welsh National Opera/ Charles Mackerras (Argo440 213)
BRITTEN: Hoping, I wandered on - Q416 - English Opera Group/ Benjamin Britten (London421 858)
BRITTEN: Death in Venice excerpt - Peter Pears, English Opera Group, EnglishCO/ Steuart Bedford (London 425 669)