Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft in 1913. His mother, a keen amateur singer, was thrilled that her youngest was born on 22 November: the feast day of St Cecilia, the patron saint of music. She hoped he would – after Bach, Beethoven and Brahms – become the ‘Fourth B’.
He did indeed become a global musical figure. In just 63 busy years Britten wrote some of the most appealing classical music of the twentieth century, was hailed as one of the all-time great opera composers, and – with his partner, the singer Peter Pears – performed around the world.
Britten was a progressive cultural figure too, ahead of his time on issues including pacifism, homosexuality and the role of artists in their communities. Thanks to his amazing archive, and an extensive recorded legacy, the whole fascinating story is uniquely well documented. You can find out more from the books and films recommended below.