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ZOOM: Benjamin Britten, A Composer of Contrasts   

**This class will be taught on Zoom**

This course will explore the life and music of one of the twentieth century’s most popular and enigmatic composers. Britten embraced avant garde musical practices and was deeply rooted in tradition. He was fascinated by nonwestern music and was famously nationalistic. He was as openly gay as possible in his time and yet was intensely private. Out of these contradictions came music of staggering beauty which explore every facet of human experience from pure sensual joy to the deepest anguish. 

Weeks 1 and 2.  Stage works:  Britten is, perhaps, best known as a composer of opera.  We will explore the repressed, but ever-present, sexuality of Death in Venice.  At the opposite extreme is the opera written for community performance with children and amateurs: Noah’s Flood.  We  will revel in the spooky ambiguity of the psychological and the supernatural in Turn of the Screw.  Britten melded European and Japanese elements as only he could in his masterpiece Curlew River.

Week 3.  Instrumental  music:  Britten’s instrumental music runs the gamut from film and educational music to works of intensely personal expression.  He was particularly fond of writing for extremely gifted musicians, most notably Mstislav Rostropovich.

Week 4.  Choral music:  Britten’s choral music ranged from settings of medieval texts to intensely political works chronicaling the suffering of the twentieth century.

Week 5.  Britten was prolific in writing for the solo voice.  Much of this music was written for his life partner, the tenor Peter Pears.

Week 6.  Britten’s arrangements of earlier music.  Unlike many twentieth-century composers who were  obsessed with their own complete originality, Britten was happy to use his musical gifts in the reworking and arranging of older music.  From English folk songs to art music of the renaissance and the baroque, Britten always left his inimitable stamp of genius on everything he touched.  

 

 

This class is not available at this time.