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Benjamin Britten (1913-76) was the greatest English composer of his time, and the first of his generation to enjoy a wide international reputation. With the great success of Peter Grimes (1945), he effectively re-invented English opera and was a pioneer of music for film and radio. His monumental War Requiem reached a wider audience than any other choral work of the century. He had an international reputation as a pianist and conductor and founded a major arts festival in Aldeburgh, the small East Coast town in which he made his home. For much of his life, however, British critics dismissed his music as merely 'clever', and some of his major works had disastrous premieres. In his twenties he considered emigrating to the USA, and lived there for over two years, but homesickness for the county of Suffolk drew him back and inspired some of his finest music. A pacifist and a homosexual, he was the subject of much malicious gossip, yet his sexuality and his political and social convictions directly or indirectly inspired much of his art. For the greater part of his creative life he lived with and enjoyed a uniquely creative partnership with the tenor Peter Pears, for whom most of his songs and principal roles in all his operas were written. In this masterly biography, the author creates a portrait of a great artist and discusses the contradictions of his quintessential Englishness and his world stature, his outsider status and his membership of the establishment, his artistic adventurousness and his constant regard for musical forms and traditions.