Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, 1913-1976

Edited by Philip Reed
Edited by Mervyn Cooke
Edited by Donald Mitchell

Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters of Benjamin Britten, 1913-1976


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First Published: 29 May 2008
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843833826
57 black and white, 69 line drawing illustrations
Pages: 676
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press
BIC Class: AV

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  Fit for a Queen: The Writing of Gloriana January 1952-July 1953
  • 3  Absolute Singleness, Clearness and Roundness: The Turn of the Screw August 1953-September 1954
  • 4  On the Threshold of a New Musical World: Towards The Prince of the Pagodas October 1954-October 1955
  • 5  As Complicated as Schoenberg: Eastern Encounters October 1955-March 1956
  • 6  Beyond Bali: The Completion of The Prince of the Pagodas March 1956-January 1957
  • 7  In the Naive Medieval Style: Noye's Fludde January-December 1957
  • 8  Bibliography
  • 9  Index of Britten's Works
  • 10  Index of Other Composers
  • 11  General Index

One of the most illuminating biographical projects in recent years. PETER ACKROYD

The fourth volume of the annotated selected letters of Benjamin Britten covers the years 1952-57, during which he wrote three major works for the stage - the Coronation opera Gloriana, the chamber opera The Turn of the Screw, and the full-length ballet The Prince of the Pagodas - as well as important vocal works such as Canticles II and III and the Hardy song-cycle Winter Words.
Correspondents include librettists William Plomer (Gloriana) and Myfanwy Piper (The Turn of the Screw), and friends and collaborators such as Edith Sitwell, E. M. Forster, Basil Coleman, Imogen Holst, Francis Poulenc, Lennox Berkeley, the Earl of Harewood and Britten's partner and principal interpreter, Peter Pears.
The volume charts Britten's growing stature as a major figure of the European musical establishment as composer, conductor and pianist, and his continuing involvement with the Aldeburgh Festival, the English Opera Group, and Covent Garden. Central to the period is the world trip undertaken by Britten and Pears and the first-hand encounter with the music and cultures of Bali and Japan that were radically to inform Britten's compositional techniques from Pagodas onwards.
The comprehensive and scholarly annotations vividly evoke a key period in twentieth-century musical and cultural history, and offer a wide range of detailed information fascinating for both the Britten specialist and the general reader. Published in association with The Britten-Pears Foundation.


Letters from a Life is more than just an edition of letters; it is a vast Britten compendium. [...] there can be no question that it is vastly more successful as biography than the straight [...] works on Britten have been. YALE REVIEW

[V]olume 4 is to be welcomed as a fine addition to the series. It does much to rehabilitate interest in Gloriana and the ballet The Prince of the Pagodas and continues to restore a more balanced view of Britten's character and interests. TWENTIETH-CENTURY MUSIC

Britten is presented as a deeply human figure, one capable of great generosity, warmth, and gentle diplomacy [...], but also of raging anger [...] and occasional pettiness [...]. Britten's own writing is compelling, the editors' attention to detail is extraordinary, and one is left eagerly anticipating the next instalments in the series. NABMSA Newsletter

A treasure trove of information. AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE
This magnificent edition of Benjamin Britten's letters reaches its fourth volume... the annotation continues to be quite superb - meticulous, imaginative, and illuminating...Innumerable moments and items of incidental interest are thrown up in the course of its 600 pages. SPECTATOR
A superb achievement. [Editor's Choice] CLASSICAL MUSIC
Full of fascinating material, much of it to be found in the copious notes to the letters written by the editors. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT [Ian Bostridge]
The splendid and extensive editorial annotations...are such a significant feature of these volumes...the reading experience is consistently both enthralling and entertaining. BRITISH MUSIC SOCIETY NEWS