Pears, Peter


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.

CBS Symphony Orchestra

CBS Symphony Orchestra
The Columbia Symphony Orchestra was an orchestra formed by Columbia Records strictly for the purpose of making recordings. It provided a vehicle for some of Columbia's better known conductors and recording artists to record using only company resources. The musicians in the orchestra were contracted as needed for individual sessions and consisted of free-lance artists and members of either the New York Philharmonic or the Los Angeles Philharmonic, depending on whether the recording was being made in Columbia's East Coast or West Coast studios.

New York Philharmonic Orchestra

New York Philharmonic Orchestra

Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States and one of the oldest in the world. Since its inception, it has played a leading role in American musical life, championing and commissioning the music of its time. The Orchestra is also renowned around the globe, having appeared in 428 cities in 61 countries on five continents, including the February 2008 historic visit to Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Philharmonic’s concerts are broadcast on the weekly syndicated radio program, The New York Philharmonic This Week, streamed on the Orchestra’s Website,, and carried on Sirius XM Radio; the concerts are also telecast annually on Live From Lincoln Center on public television in the U.S. The Philharmonic has made nearly 2,000 recordings since 1917 — with more than 500 currently available — and in 2006 became the first major American orchestra to offer downloadable concerts, recorded live. The Orchestra has built on the long-running Young People’s Concerts to develop a wide range of programs, including the School Partnership Program, which enriches music education in New York City, and Learning Overtures, which fosters international exchange through classroom demonstrations and symposia. Alan Gilbert became Music Director in  2009, succeeding Lorin Maazel in a distinguished line of 20th-century musical giants.


Image Credit: 
Alan Schindler

Barbirolli, John

Barbirolli was the son of an émigré Italian violinist and his French wife. He began playing the violin when he was 4 (later switching to the cello) and, at the age of 10, became a scholar at the Trinity College of Music. He attended the Royal Academy of Music from 1912 to 1916 and established himself as an orchestral and solo cellist. During his mid-20s he devoted himself to chamber work. He then turned to opera as a full-time conductor, taking seasons at Covent Garden and Sadler’s Wells and making appearances at the British National Opera. He also conducted with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Scottish Orchestra. Invited for the 1936–37 season of the New York Philharmonic, he won the permanent post in succession to Arturo Toscanini, holding it through that organization’s memorable centenary season, 1941–42.
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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

'Fievreuse est la musique, emportee, sur des ostinati de cordes, qui doublent le rythme, servie par la voix lineaire, d'une froide et impitoyable purete de Sandrine Piau, parfaitement adaptee aux elans incisifs qui s'ornent soudain de chromatismes et d'arabesques inattendues.' Clic Mag



Les Illuminations:

Recording date: 18 May 1941
Recording venue: ISCM Festival, New York

Sinfonia da Requiem:
Recording date: 30 March 1941

Seven Sonnets:
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

Boosey & Hawkes
Catalogue number:
NMC D030
Release Date:
1 December 1995