Pears studied at the University of Oxford, London. He then joined the Sadler’s Wells Opera, where he created the title role in Britten’s Peter Grimes (1945). In 1946 Pears helped Britten found the English Opera Group, and in 1947 they were instrumental in founding the Aldeburgh Festival., at the Royal College of Music, and then with Elena Gerhardt and Dawson Freer. In 1936 he met Britten, and in 1938 he gave the first of many song recitals with Britten as accompanist. The two men became lifelong companions.
Pears sang in the first performances of all of Britten’s operas, including Albert Herring, Billy Budd, Owen Wingrave, and Death in Venice. He also performed notably in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Bedřich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, and much of the Italian operatic repertory as well as in the song cycles of Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert and the Passions of J.S. Bach. He received a knighthood in 1977.
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Three recordings from 1941, publicly available for the first time following transfer from the original 78rpm discs and lengthy subsequent treatment: the centrepiece is an off-air recording of the American premiere of Les Illuminations with Peter Pears.
"These are historical documents of importance... Technically wonders have been done to what appear to be intractable originals. All Britten and Pears specialists will want the issue to which Colin Matthews contributes authoritative annotations."
'Les Illuminations emerges as a lovely and impassioned work in the hands of a very young Peter Pears' MusicWeb International
Recording date: 18 May 1941
Recording venue: ISCM Festival, New York
Sinfonia da Requiem:
Recording date: 30 March 1941
Recording date: 1941
Restoration & mastering: Simon Heyworth, Marian Freeman, Colin Matthews
Cover image: Photo by Fred Plaut, courtesy of the Britten-Pears Foundation
(P) 1995 NMC Recordings Ltd