Decca celebrates 100 years since the birth of England’s greatest 20th Century composer, Benjamin Britten, with a unique limited edition 65-CD box containing his entire canon of works. Britten and Decca enjoyed a unique relationship with the composer recording most of his key works for the label. Decca’s 1963 set of the War Requiem remains one of the fastest-selling classical releases of all time.
Beyond the huge catalogue of Britten’s own recordings of his works for Decca Classics, which account for 75% of this complete edition, many other labels have kindly assisted by providing recordings of Britten’s remaining works: a total of 20 labels to make this extraordinary achievement possible including EMI Classics, Virgin Classics, Naxos, Warner Classics and NMC, making this a rare example of cross-industry collaboration furthering the reputation of this titanic figure.
Paul Moseley, Managing Director of Decca Classics, said:
“In this very special Britten year it seemed to us at Decca that something unique had to be attempted to honour such a huge figure in British music. The first ever ‘complete works’ on disc best fitted the bill, and we are most grateful to all participating labels and to the Britten-Pears Foundation for their support in making this happen.”
The set is organised into 4 principal sections, each with its own individual book which offers a detailed article on Britten’s contribution to each genre, as well track listings and recording information:
The Operas (20 CDs)
Stage & Screen (12 CDs)
Voices (16 CDs)
Instruments (13 CDs)
In addition 4 bonus CDs include a series of newly conducted interviews with surviving musicians who worked closely with Britten, historic recordings and rarities, and Britten’s rehearsals at the recording sessions for the War Requiem which itself has been newly remastered this year from the analogue master tapes.
The set also features a DVD of Tony Palmer’s film on the making of the 1967 recording of The Burning Fiery Furnace, chosen specifically for its unrivalled insight into the Britten-Decca recording relationship and the working methods of producer John Culshaw and his pioneering Decca team.
These 66 discs are housed in a handsome and individually numbered box featuring a newly-commissioned illustration depicting the young Britten surrounded by visual icons inspired by his music. To crown the set a 208-page full-colour hardback book offers a host of fascinating articles and insights, a complete alphabetical index of works included in the edition, a gallery of original Decca LP sleeves from 1953 onwards and copious recording session pictures and beautiful Aldeburgh landscapes newly photographed for this edition.
Benjamin Britten was born 22nd November 1913, the feast day of St Cecilia, patron saint of music. Over four intensely creative decades he went on to publish over one hundred works, of which the most important dominated and shaped their respective genres – opera with Peter Grimes, the choral oratorio with War Requiem, music to inspire newcomers (Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra), and the Song Cycle (Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings). The range of Britten’s music is astonishing, as is the creative fertility of his musical imagination.
Britten is the subject of a major campaign, Britten100, under the auspices of the Britten-Pears Foundation who are investing over £6 million in further driving international awareness of the composer.
Hundreds of (mainly teenage) fragments and juvenilia remain unpublished or recorded. Decca’s Complete Works includes all works with opus numbers and all works commercially recorded to date. Includes folksongs, excludes Purcell realisations and Hindmarsh’s arrangements of incidental music to King Arthur and World of the Spirit.