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- Published on Amazon.com
The archives at The Red House contain thousands of documents and photographs of the great composer Benjamin Britten and his circle: these are the source for the pictures in this beautiful book, compiled with the Britten-Pears Foundation for the centenary of Britten's birth in 2013. Britten was a private man with an immense public following: his guardedness, essential given his then illegal status as a homosexual, is evident in the photographs published during his lifetime. Britten felt, too, that the composer should be secondary to his works: he didn't want to be a celebrity; he wanted his music to be heard. The result was the 'enigmatic smile' he adopted for his image. When photographed with his musical and domestic partner Peter Pears, but also with most others, women as well as men, he directed his attention objectively outward, towards the camera but not engaged with it, or downward towards the score or the keyboard. From a small child, he was accustomed to be adored, and we can see him accepting without visual comment the admiring eyes of Pears and other people. Even in a formal portrait, he seems most relaxed when photographed with his dogs. Although his face is closed to interpretation, though, his hands are most eloquent. The collection has released previously unseen photographs that show a less serious side: lovely early portraits of Britten in America; family snapshots with his nieces and nephews; holiday pictures: he had much charm, and could enjoy himself. The fascinating introduction discusses paintings and sculptures of Britten as well as photographs. Many famous musicians passed through Britten's life: Rostropovich, Menhuin, Fischer-Dieskau can be found here. Each photograph is surely worth many words. This book is a treasure-house for anyone interested in Britten and Pears, or in Aldeburgh and its Festival.