Britten celebrated with new music campus

Benjamin Britten, composer, pianist, conductor, pacifist, humanitarian, and visionary, died on December 4th 1976. Today I celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of his death with the remarkable story of how he left not just a legacy of 20th century masterpieces, but also a remarkable vision which is about to be realised after three decades.

It was the dearest wish of both the composer and his life partner Peter Pears that a music centre should be created at Snape Maltings, and in 2006 comes the exciting news that this vision is to become reality. Over the next three years the ambitious plan is to transform the musical life of the Suffolk coast immortalised in Peter Grimes and other Britten compositions. Drawing on the inspiring landscape, Snape Maltings will become the first dedicated music campus in Europe where top artists from around the world can realise their full potential and connect with a wider public.

The plan is to establish a ‘creative campus’ on the Snape Maltings site, providing the perfect environment for leading artists to work alongside the next generation of musicians. The new campus will provide a catalyst for Aldeburgh’s other work, generating more performances, new commissions, and touring opportunities. It will provide additional high-quality facilities for the Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme and for their acclaimed work with schools and the wider community.

A budget of £12m ($22m) will be used to purchase a 999 year lease for the legendary concert hall complex, and will also purchase and redevelop adjacent redundant buildings. The new workspaces will complement those already in use, and will combine the simple austerity of the Victorian buildings with the technical needs of the 21st century musician. The centrepiece of the scheme is a large new studio, bigger than the main concert hall stage, and suitable for orchestral rehearsals. It will have excellent acoustics combined with the flexibility and high levels of sound insulation required for recording. Arup Acoustics, the consultancy responsible for the near perfect sound in the main Maltings auditorium, has been retained for the project. When not being used for rehearsals, the new studio will serve as a 340 seat performance venue.

An old malt kiln on the site will be renovated to provide a space large enough to accommodate instrumental groups, and chamber and music-theatre rehearsals, and will be equipped for video/electro-acoustic installations. For performances 80 seats will be available in a flexible configuration, and the renovation will retain the double height space of the original kiln, together with as much of the existing fabric as possible. In addition to these impressive performance spaces the new scheme will create two smaller fully sound-proofed rehearsal studios.

‘Dead Europeans’ and other perjoratives have been used in the past to describe the generations of composers that reached their culmination at the end of the 20th century with Britten and his contemporaries. Britten’s vision was responsible for the building, and rebuilding after the disastrous fire, of Snape Maltings, and the establishment there of one of the world’s foremost contemporary music festivals. There can be no more fitting testament to the continuing influence of Benjamin Britten thirty years after his death than the fulfillment of his vision through the creation of Europe’s first dedicated music campus.

Now read Britten’s manifesto – Music does not exist in a vacuum

With acknowledgements to Aldeburgh Music. For photos of the Snape redevelopment follow this link. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included for "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


Pliable said…
Posted to Britten shows how everybody can make music.

Though I'm not a churchgoer, I dropped into an Advent mass at a small, old Episcopalian church in my neighborhood in San Francisco this evening because a friend was singing as a soloist and they were featuring an amazing mix of Palestrina, Britten and others for an 8-person chorus mixed in with congregational hymns. It was exquisite, and I finally got a complete glimpse of the musical genius of Britten in his attempt to bring music to a wider community through the church (in his parables, Noye's Fludde, Saint Nicholas and so on). I envy you your experience.

And someday I'm going to come visit Aldeburgh and its new music school and document the whole place, in which case nothing would make me happier than running into you, Mr. Pliable. Thanks for the pics and the info.

Posted by sfmike to On An Overgrown Path at 12/04/2006 06:54:56 AM
Pliable said…
The Guardian really seems to be struggling with its classical music coverage, despite its sexy online revamp.

They completely missed the Britten anniversary, and the next day published this crass article by the Welsh MP Hywel Williams.

If you think the headline is bad read on - The Puccini of Lowestoft

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