Aldeburgh Music’s year-long tribute to its founding father, Benjamin Britten, takes forward the legacy that began when Britten moved back to his native Suffolk in 1938. Key focuses for its centenary programme, which runs from 23 November 2012 to 24 November 2013, are the Suffolk landscape that inspired some of Britten’s greatest works and his pioneering community and education work, while a particular emphasis is placed on new commissions.

At the centre of the celebration is the 2013 Aldeburgh Festival (June 7-23) which features world premieres from six leading international composers co-commissioned by the Britten-Pears Foundation and the Royal Philharmonic Society: Harrison Birtwistle, Magnus Lindberg, Wolfgang Rihm, Richard Rodney-Bennett, Poul Ruders and Judith Weir.

Highlighting the extent of Britten’s wider cultural influence, Aldeburgh Music has also commissioned works from artists working in different disciplines to provide responses to Britten. Playwright Mark Ravenhill and music theatre composer Conor Mitchell add eight new songs to Britten’s Cabaret Songs - four original settings of Auden texts that Britten discarded and four new ones; jazz trumpeter and composer Guy Barker takes his inspiration from the characters in Britten’s operas for a new jazz suite; Kim Brandstrup, Cameron McMillan, and Ashley Page have choreographed music written by and inspired by Britten; and SNAP, Aldeburgh Festival’s visual arts show, features new works inspired by Britten by artists including Abigail Lane, Sarah Lucas, Maggi Hambling and many others.

Two major operatic projects during the Festival recognise the huge influence that location had on Britten’s work. Britten’s most famous opera, Peter Grimes, comes home to the place that inspired it, with concert performances at Snape, a unique staging on Aldeburgh beach, and a commission from theatre company Punchdrunk that invites audiences to immerse themselves in Grimes’ dark world. Meanwhile the three Church Parables will receive a rare staging at Orford Church, the location for which they were composed.

Outside the Festival, theatre director Neil Bartlett and lighting designer Paule Constable collaborate with Ian Bostridge and other artists to re-interpret The Canticles; sound artist Chris Watson creates a new piece from the soundscapes of Britten’s composing walks around Aldeburgh’s marshes; and, Jon Boden, BBC Radio 2’s ‘Folksinger of the Year’ 2010, weaves a new work into the Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard.

Additionally, Britten’s passionate belief in the composer’s active role in the community is recognised by a series of projects masterminded by Aldeburgh Music which include a nationwide singing project Friday Afternoons based on Britten’s songs for children’s choir; a series of summer feasts inspired by Albert Herring; and a production of Noye’s Fludde performed by local town people in Lowestoft, Britten’s birthplace.

Aldeburgh Music began as the Aldeburgh Festival which was started in 1948 as a home for Britten’s English Opera Group, and immediately became a magnet for performers the world over. With the instigation of master classes by Peter Pears in 1972, Aldeburgh became internationally recognised both for the quality of its performances, and for its nurturing of talent.

In addition to being a leading centre for artist development, which provide practical experience for every age and every stage of musical development, Aldeburgh Music has increased its number of performances by almost 40% in the past 12 years, bringing the total to over 170 performances per year.


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