Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
August 18
Can You Guess?
We read that Benjamin Britten started studying music on the piano, then he moved to strings. Can You Guess what stringed instrument Britten took up after starting on the piano?

Look at the Bottom of the Page for the Answer.
What Else
1750 - Antonio Saliere, Italian composer and conductor, was born near Verona.

1906 - Gustav Mahler conducted Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro in Salzburg. Mozart Festival included Mozart's Cosi fan tutte conducted by Richard Strauss.

1937 - The first FM radio construction permit was issued. It went to W1X0J (later to become WGTR) in Boston, MA.

1957 - Tan Dun, Chinese-born American composer, was born.

1962 - Peter, Paul & Mary's "If I Had A Hammer" was released.

2004 - Elmer Bernstein,  American film music composer, died.
On August 18, 1938, Benjamin Britten was soloist in the first performance of his piano concerto.

(Edward) Benjamin Britten was born November 22, 1913 at the family home in Lowestoft, Suffolk, England.  His father was a dentist.  He had two sisters and a brother, all of whom were older than he.

Britten started composing when he was just 5 years old.  His first music lessons were on the piano, but he moved to strings later.
Benjamin Britten
After about 1922 Britten composed steadily until his death.

In 1927, Benjamin attended a concert conducted by composer Frank Bridge.  After the concert he met Bridge and showed him several of his compositions.  Ultimately Bridge took him on as a student.

Benjamin entered the Royal College of Music in London in 1930.  There he studied composition with John Ireland and piano with Arthur Benjamin. During his stay at the school he won several prizes for his compositions.

Brittlen completed his choral work, A Boy was Born, in 1933.  At a rehearsal for the piece, he met tenor Peter Pears.  This began a lifelong personal and professional relationship. (Many of Britten's solo songs, choral and operatic works feature a tenor. Britten designated Pears as soloist at many premieres.)

During this period before World War II, he met and worked frequently with poet W. H. Auden, who provided texts for many of his songs, as well as complete scripts for which Britten provided incidental music.

In the spring of 1939, Britten and Pears left Europe for North America.  In 1940 he worked with Auden on an operetta for high schools called Paul Bunyan, based on traditional American folk characters.  This was the first of many works written for children, or with children in mind.  His almost obsessive fondness for boys’ voices, and his love for children, is seen in his many works for and about them.  The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946), Let’s Make an Opera (1949), Noyes Fludde (1957), Missa Brevis (1959) to the Golden Vanity (1966, for the Vienna Boys Choir) and the harrowing tale of the Children’s Crusade (1968, for Wandsworth School) all prominently feature children.

During the early 40s, Britten produced a number of works, outstanding among them the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Ceremony of Carols, Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Serenade (for tenor, horn, and strings), Rejoice in the Lamb, and the Festival Te Deum. He completed Peter Grimes (which many consider his best operatic work) in 1945.

He also wrote chamber music, songs, folk song arrangements, and choral works.

Britten was awarded the Order of Merit in March 1965; he was created a Life Peer, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh in the County of Suffolk, in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, June, 1976.

He died at his home in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, on December 4, 1976.

Click to View Ginette Neveu's Music.
Britten Violin Concerto
Britten Violin Concerto
by Maxim Vengerov
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Did You Guess?
After starting on the piano Benjamin Britten took lessons on the viola.
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