Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Decca

I’m ashamed to admit it, but Benjamin Britten is a composer I managed to live most of my life without knowing really anything about.

Chalk it up first to the anti-British bias there is in classical music overall. Which is strange, actually, because Britain is one of the strongest countries out there in terms of public and private support of classical music.

Be that as it may, though, I managed to get through life without knowing much about him (other than he’s from Britain…that’s easy, it’s in his name) and without hearing much.

My first exposure to Britten actually came in Alex Ross’ great book “The Rest is Noise“. That did inspire me to pick up a copy of his War Requiem. But I didn’t really get any exposure to Britten beyond that until I saw Moonrise Kingdom.

I have to give Wes Anderson credit: his use of Britten’s music in the film is one of the best examples I’ve seen of making the music a part of the film. Russell Platt has a great write-up on that over at the New Yorker.

So I’ve been slowly getting more into Britten and quite enjoying it.

But one thing that I’ve really only recently learned is that Britten had an extensive recording history with Decca. Specifically, Decca released nearly all of his works with him conducting or playing piano or otherwise under his supervision. Add to that, many of the works feature his long-time partner Peter Pears for whom Britten specifically wrote many of his works.

It’s an unusual and unique thing to have such direct access to a composer’s vision and intention directly. I can’t think of any other instance quite like this.

So you can be sure that I’ll be looking to Decca first for my works by Britten.

Of course, too, this falls into the “why didn’t anyone tell me?!” category.

But, better late than never, eh?