Britten’s death day

Thursday December 1 2016

Marking the 40th anniversary of Britten’s death

Peter Pears' diary © Britten-Pears Foundation

Peter Pears’ diary © Britten-Pears Foundation

Forty years ago, on 4 December 1976, Benjamin Britten died at The Red House in the arms of his long-term partner Peter Pears. He was 63 years old. Britten had been suffering a debilitating heart condition and since major surgery in 1973 had become progressively weak. Nonetheless, during this period he had composed some of his most vibrant and personal works, including the dramatic cantata Phaedra, the orchestral Suite on English Folk Tunes: ‘A Time There Was. . .’ and his extraordinary final String Quartet. Britten’s remarkable achievements throughout his life were paid tribute to in the many obituaries written in the national press after his death; and his status as not only an international figure but a beloved Suffolk resident was evident in the crowds that lined the streets of Aldeburgh as his funeral procession passed through the town a few days after his death on 7 December. Britten is buried in Aldeburgh churchyard, his grave marked by a simple headstone. Peter Pears, who died ten years later in 1986, lies next to him.

BBC Four will be broadcasting John Bridcut’s documentary Britten’s Endgame on Sunday 4 December at 7.30pm. Details can be found here.

Listen to a dedication in memory of Benjamin Britten from 1976

The Amadeus Quartet premiered Britten’s String Quartet No.3 at Snape Maltings on 19 Dec 1976, fifteen days after the composer died. Listen to their dedication to Britten before the performance: