Six major commissions announced for Britten centenary

Six major commissions have been announced to mark the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten, one of the UK’s best-loved composers.

They will be premiered in 2013 and will also mark the bicentenary of the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS).

Work will be written for different ensembles which, according to the Britten-Pears Foundation (BPF), reflect the range of Britten’s output.

“Britten himself was a keen champion of new music, and would surely approve of us working with the RPS to celebrate his centenary, and their bicentenary, with new works from such outstanding contemporary composers,” commented Richard Jarman, general director of the BPF.

Composers commissioned for the project include Wolfgang Rihm for symphony orchestra and Judieth Weir for chamber orchestra.

Magnus Lindberg will write for ensemble and speaking of Britten, he said of his admiration for the “clarity of his scoring and the amazing range of his output”.

“He also had an innate sense of drama, and I hear this just as much in his instrumental music as in his operas,” the composer added. “His legacy continues to be important for living composers and contemporary music in general.”

Per Norgard will compose a work for string quartet and Harrison Birtwistle for tenor and piano, using the words of poet David Harsent.

Last but not least, Richard Rodney Bennett has been commissioned to write a song cycle for children.

Leading orchestras from across the UK will be part of the premieres, including the Halle Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia.

Meanwhile, the RPS will mark its special anniversary with a series of concerts and special events.

The organisation is not unfamiliar with commissioning new work. In the past it has supported composers such as Beethoven and Mendelssohn and since its foundation in 1813 over 130 new works have been commissioned by or dedicated to the RPS.

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