Friday, November 22, 2013

Marion Thorpe and Benjamin Britten

Respect to JFK and Doctor Who, but today's most significant anniversary for me is the centenary of Benjamin Britten's birth. I must have listened more to his music than that of any other classical composer and, alongside Bach and Schubert, he forms one of my trio of favourites.

Today's Guardian editorial reminds us of the central place Britten occupied in British culture - a place hard to imagine today:
Imagine an English classical music composer who is so famous in his own lifetime that his name is known throughout the country, who is the first British composer to end his life as a peer of the realm, a composer from whom the BBC uniquely commissions a prime-time new opera for television, and whose every important new premiere is a national event, a recording of one of which – though it is 90 minutes long – sells 200,000 copies almost as soon as it is released, and a musician whose death leads the news bulletins and the front pages.
I hardly knew anything about classical music in 1976, but I was 16 and it surprises me that I can remember nothing about Britten's death.

There is an extraordinary amount about Britten and his music to enjoy and explore this weekend - Radio 3 had decamped to Aldeburgh en masse - but one item may particularly interest Liberal readers.

Marion Thorpe - Jeremy Thorpe's second wife - was a lifelong friend of Britten and she has recorded the interview above about that friendship for Radio 3.

Tom Service describes it as follows in a Guardian blog:
What you'll hear from Marion is an insight into a rarely seen side of the composer's character: his humour, his "terrible schoolboy jokes", his generosity, his competitive streak – he hated losing at tennis, which he would play on his grass court at the Red House in Aldeburgh – and what it was like to play duets while sitting next to him on the piano stool. Marion – who first married George Harewood, and after Harewood left her (Britten supported Marion throughout), married Jeremy Thorpe – was herself a fine pianist who would go on to found the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

it surprises me that I can remember nothing about Britten's death.
Nor I, but I do remember that he was known to be ailing. Therefore his death would not have come as a surprise, so it would not have been as memorable.