June 12
What Else
June 12, 1964 marked the premiere of Benjamin Britten's opera Curlew River in Orford Church, Aldeburgh.

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.

1813 - Sir Anthony Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, defeated a French army under King Joseph Bonaparte and drove it out of Spain, back into France. Beethoven celebrated the event with his Op 91 Wellington's Victory.

1848 - Fritz Seitz, German composer, was born in Günthersleben, Germany.  Seitz wrote 5 Pupil's Concertos for the violin!  Lots of fun to play! The sheet music even comes with CD accompaniments!

1892 - John Donald Robb, US composer, was born in Minneapolis.

1946 - Premiere of Serge Prokofiev's opera War and Peace, in Leningrad.

1952 - Premiere of Leonard Bernstein's chamber opera Trouble in Tahiti at Brandeis University's Festival of the Creative Arts, Bernstein conducted.

1974 - Premiere of Elie Siegmeister's String Quartet No. 3 on Hebrew Themes. Vieuxtemps Quartet.

2002 - Premiere of Jennifer Higdon's Concerto for Orchestra at the American Symphony Orchestra League National Convention. The Philadelphia Orchestra was conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch.
Benjamin Britten
Britten started composing at the age of five.  He was educated locally, and studied, first, piano, and then, later, viola, from private teachers. 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.

Britten 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.
GREAT Father's Day Presents for your violinist Dad.  "The Only Metal Instrument I Want to Hold is my Spatula" on his Barbecue Apron or "The Older The Fiddler the Sweeter the Tune" on a heavyweight T-Shirt.

Which one do you think he'd enjoy more?
Benjamin Britten's
Curlew River.
Can You Guess?
We read of Beethoven's celebrating Wellington's victory in song.  Another famous piece of music celebrated a Russian victory.  It features cannons, and provided the theme song for a breakfast cereal commercial in the 1960's.  Can You Guess the work or the composer.  Extra credit if you guess the cereal.

Go to the Bottom of the Page for the Answer
Did You Guess?
a Quaker's Puffed Wheat was the cereal that was "shot from guns."  The piece was Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
Free Music Samples--1812 Overture and Wellington's Victory
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The Music of Battle!  Rousing renditions of Beethoven's Wellington's Victory and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture!
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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.

Violinist Szymon Goldberg plays Schubert