By David Matthews
"His reviews on Britten's song, which happen unobtrusively in the course of the narrative, are richly informative."—Alexander Waugh, Literary Review
Benjamin Britten used to be one of many striking British composers of the 20 th century. He shot to overseas status together with his operas, played by means of his personal English Opera staff, and a sequence of notable instrumental works. His tune has received a crucial position within the repertoire and the love of successive generations of listeners. David Matthews brings to this biography his particular perception as a fellow composer, former assistant, and lifetime pal of Britten, generating a uniquely own, delicate, and authoritative account.
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Oh, I wish Phoebe would hurry up with tea. ’ ‘She thinks of nothing but food,’ Aunt Clare informed me. ‘But what of you, child? How exciting to meet one of Charlotte’s friends, and such an attractive young girl! ’ She cleared her throat and paused in a fashion that the novelist would describe as dramatically. ‘You — you look terribly like — like — Archie Wallace,’ she said. For the second time I was rendered almost speechless. ‘He’s — he was my father,’ I managed to squeak. ‘He — he was killed.
Goodness knows, I’ve known enough of the one that have gone. We’ll look back on this time in horror, you know, girls. ’ ‘We’re fighting to keep it alive,’ I muttered, slurping noisily at my tea to cover up how moved I was by her words. ’ asked Charlotte, sensing my discomfort. ‘It is lovely. ’ ‘I love the cold! So inspiring. ’ Aunt Clare stood up, crossed the room and poked at the fire. ‘Harry adores a warm house,’ she said resentfully. ’ ‘He has a warm heart,’ Charlotte observed. Aunt Clare snorted.
Admittedly, the decision to take the bus from Bayswater to Paddington was uncharacteristic. But I was here now, and for the next half an hour there was very little I could do but follow Charlotte’s lead. I was half nervous, half curious, and entirely surprised at myself. Maybe they’re kidnapping me, I thought hopefully. They would soon throw me back onto the streets once they realised that under the expensive coat lurked a girl with no trust fund, no guaranteed income and no decent jewels. I pulled out the powder compact I had stolen from Mama’s dressing table and blinked at myself.