Taking his inspiration from everything he discovered around him, Germany’s ultimate Romantic lavished his talents upon them, taking music into completely new territory, says Julian Haylock.
Lived 1913 – 1976 Mostly in Aldeburgh Best Known For Peter Grimes, War Requiem, A Ceremony of Carols, Noye’s Fludde Similar To Tippett, Walton, John Joubert, William Mathias “It’s been a funny Christmas, the first I’ve ever spent without family or friends,” wrote Britten to a young correspondent from India in December 1955. “Peter & I didn’t even say ‘Happy Christmas’ to anyone (except a curious couple who’d brought their caravan from England…).” Not even the splendour of the Taj Mahal, where Britten and Pears spent Christmas Day, could dispel their nostalgia for traditional yuletide festivities, which in Britten’s case delighted him all his life. Britten’s childhood diaries reveal that, in their Lowestoft home, his family and friends enjoyed exactly the same seasonal pleasures as millions of others from year to year. Even after he’d left home to study at the Royal College of Music, the budding composer was always keen to return to Suffolk to go Christmas shopping, wrap up his presents, help decorate the local church, and participate in the annual family pantomime. Picking holly sprigs was a special pleasure, and it comes as no surprise that he later made two different arrangements of the carol The Holly and