Born on the festival of St. Cecilia (the patron saint of music), Benjamin Britten is the most widely performed British 20th century composer. His craftsmanship and versatility produced works for every genre, from large-scale symphonic and operatic scores, to choral and vocal works, many of which were written for his partner Peter Pears. From 1945 onwards he founded a new English-language opera tradition, with works such as Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw now established in the international repertoire. His enormously successful War Requiem summed up his deeply-held pacifism.
Britten displayed insight into both the dark and light sides of human nature. Recurring themes in his works include conflicts between the outsider and society, moral good and lurking evil, innocence and experience. Partly as a vehicle for such themes and partly for educative purposes, he enjoyed writing a notable amount of works for, or involving, children - such as his famous The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell), and the Ceremony of Carols.
His music has strong links to literature. He had a lifelong collaboration with the poet WH Auden, and showed tremendous skills at setting words in adventurous ways which proved extremely communicative with the audience. His accompanying clarity of harmony enabled him to create scenes of perfect naïvity, menace, or sharp satire - indeed, he claimed it was his aim to achieve "perfect clarity of expression".