Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh

Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh

Britten, Benjamin, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh, 1913-76, English composer. Britten is widely considered the most significant British composer since Purcell. Britten's most characteristic expression is found in his vocal music. His many song cycles and choral works include A Boy Was Born (1933) and A Ceremony of Carols (1942). Britten's great War Requiem (1962), based on the bitter war poems of Wilfred Owen, was sung at the dedication in England of the reconstructed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed during World War II. In his operas, which include Paul Bunyan (1941), Peter Grimes (1945), The Rape of Lucretia (1946), The Beggar's Opera (1948), The Turn of the Screw (1954), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960), and Death in Venice (1973), he displayed a sensitivity to text and a fondness for variation techniques, dynamic dissonance, and the use of ground basses. Britten's instrumental works, some composed when he was a youth, display considerable technical brilliance and colorful orchestration. A notable and popular example, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946), written for a film, is based on a theme by Purcell. In 1976 Queen Elizabeth II named him a life peer.

See biographies by I. Holst (2d ed. 1970), E. W. White (new ed. 1970), and H. Carpenter (1992); study by P. Evans (1979).

Roger Simon, 2nd Baron Simon of Wythenshawe (16 October 191314 October 2002) was a British solicitor and left wing journalist and political activist. He was one of the founders of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The elder son of Ernest, first Lord Simon and Shena, Lady Simon, he inherited the title on his father's death in 1960. Although he never renounced the title, he did not use it, either.

After Gresham's School, Holt, Norfolk, where he was a contemporary of Benjamin Britten and Donald Maclean, Simon read economics at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. While there he was invited to join the Political Economy Club run by John Maynard Keynes. At one of the club's meetings, Piero Sraffa, a friend of Antonio Gramsci, advised him to read Karl Marx, and Simon soon joined the Communist Party, as his brother Brian Simon had done a year before. He was considered one of the primary apologists for Joseph Stalin's assassination of Leon Trotsky in 1940 Mexico.

In 1935, he qualified as a solicitor, and from 1942 to 1945 he served in the Royal Signals. He went for officer training at Catterick, where he met the Marxist Arnold Kettle, later a close friend.

From 1945 to 1946, he taught law at Welbeck Abbey, where soldiers with three years' service could have a month's free education. At Welbeck he met Edmund Penning-Rowsell, another communist who became a lifelong friend.

From 1946 to 1958 he worked for Ealing Borough Council as a solicitor. In 1958 he joined the Labour Party's Research Department, becoming secretary from 1965 to 1977. He published many pamphlets and articles on economic issues. His last ten years were devoted to green politics.

He was a member of the William Morris Society.


  • An Introduction To Gramsci's Political Thought (1982)

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