Documentary: The Curious Case of Benjamin Britten

Paul Stewart walks on a hill above the abandoned Grey Rocks Inn, near Mont Tremblant. (Scott Tresham/CBC Music)

Paul Stewart walks on a hill above the abandoned Grey Rocks Inn, near Mont Tremblant. (Scott Tresham/CBC Music)


Benjamin Britten was born in Suffolk, England on November 22, 1913. He was one of the most prolific and versatile composers of the 20th century. He wrote operas, choral music, requiems .. as well as orchestral music. His work was melodic, personal and had the power to touch listeners' deepest emotions.

This documentary is accompanied by a photo gallery on the CBC Music website. To watch while you listen, click here

Paul Stewart grew up by the sea. And it was there, in his hometown of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, that as a little boy, he first heard Britten's music - and fell in love with it. He went on to become a concert pianist and a piano professor. His passion for Britten never waned.

So it's fitting that this fall, which marks the centenary of Britten's birth, Paul Stewart decided to try - once again  - to find the place where Britten and Canada first came together.  It's a quest he has been on since way back in the 20th century. And it first took him to a town in Quebec, about an hour and a half north of Montreal.


(Britten-Pears Foundation -Britten 100, c1949 - At Crag House - photo by Roland Haupt)

c1949 - At Crag House - photo by Roland Haupt.jpg


Benjamin Britten was 25 in 1939, when he took the long sea voyage to Canada with his friend and future partner, Peter Pears. By then, he was well-known as a composer.  But he was restless. The Canadian wilderness beckoned to him. And took him in.


In a cabin somewhere near Mont Tremblant, in the Laurentien Mountains, more than 70 years ago, Britten lived -- and composed some important works.


 On a cold fall day recently, Paul Stewart went looking for that cabin.
Lindsay Michael went with him; her documentary is called The Curious Case of Benjamin Britten.


Looking through the window at the abandoned Grey Rocks Inn (Scott Tresham/CBC Music)
Thank you to Ben Edwards for being the voice of Benjamin Britten.
Music includes Britten's Young Apollo, Les Illuminations, The first  Sea Interlude, Canadian Carnival and the Violin Concerto.

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