The success of Peter Grimes caught Britten by surprise. It gave him enormous capital, but for the most part he chose to spend it outside London, away from the emerging music institutions the new Labour government was determined would establish the sort of cultural infrastructure Britain’s recent enemy, Germany, took for granted. Britten felt more comfortable participating first-hand in the Continental traditions Britain was now emulating, distrustful of the architects and executors of this new national culture. In this illustrated lecture Kildea explores the stylistic and philosophical changes in Britten’s music in this ‘middle period’, the obsessions and vision that kept him an outsider no matter the determination of many to bring him into the club, and how he retreated both personally and stylistically in the 1960s, suspicious of the fame the War Requiem had brought him. Kildea covers the composition of Billy Budd, the jealousies and stupidities governing the debacle of Gloriana, and the creation of one of the greatest festivals and concert halls in the world. This is the second in a series of three lectures in which conductor Paul Kildea, author of a major new biography of composer Benjamin Britten, explores the life and music of this colossal twentieth-century artist.
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
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