B0332. Humphrey Carpenter. Benjamin Britten - A Biography. London, Faber & Faber, 1992. 680pp. Indices; DJ - 0-571-14324-5
"This new biography is typical of the author's style: comprehensive, probing, and objective. Access to materials from the estate of renowned English composer Edward Benjamin Britten (1913-76) enabled Carpenter to write an enlightening study that focuses on Britten's homosexuality and how it influenced his work. Throughout his life, Britten achieved significant accomplishments yet never felt completely accepted. He followed a strict code of perfectionism, suffered from bouts of depression, and found it difficult to ‘loosen up’. Wrapped around his spirit, though, was the peculiar thrust of artistic drive that is so characteristic of brilliance. Britten received accolades during his lifetime, but full appreciation and acknowledgement did not come until after his death. While much has been written about Britten in the past 17 years, Carpenter's book is an important contribution. Highly recommended.”
- Library Journal
“A first-rate, if somewhat less than magisterial, treatment by Carpenter ('The Brideshead Generation', 1990, etc.) of the life and works of one of the 20th century's towering musical figures - the man who put English music firmly on the larger European map. This is like a run-through of a great symphony by a major orchestra under a more - than-adequate international conductor. All the notes - Carpenter's prodigious research--are firmly in place. The major themes - Britten's overly doting relationship with his mother; his artistic preoccupation with the loss of innocence, which may have stemmed from childhood sexual abuse; his homosexual ‘marriage’ to Peter Pears; his indiscrete relationships with young boys; his pacifism; his generosity and his selfishness; his depression and physical illnesses, all transcended by a phenomenal artistic (and especially compositional) energy that allowed him to turn out a staggering series of major and minor works in an unusually full 63 years of life - are crisp, clear, and skillfully played. Above all, Carpenter's respect for the intelligence of his readers shines through, causing him to eschew facile interpretation. Not written merely from the card index--the book's a good deal better than that, and will be required reading by anyone seriously interested in its subject.”
- Kirkus Reviews
"This book is a biography of Benjamin Britten - one of the great English composers and musicians of the 20th century - which was written independently, and subsequently authorized by the Britten estate. It is based on an examination of a mass of published and unpublished letters and documents and scores, as well as first-hand interviews with numerous people whose lives or careers touched those of Britten and his partner Pears, both within and beyond the immediate Aldeburgh circle. The book also looks at the homosexual thread running through Britten's life and music, and he also assimilates the evidence of the published and forthcoming correspondence and diaries. As the biographer of W.H. Auden, the author is also able to give a detailed account of their friendship, and its lapse in later years."
- Ned Ludd