Benjamin Britten was a composer most remembered for having renewed England’s voice in Western art music. He significantly revived English opera, which took a positive turn after the success of his operatic masterpiece Peter Grimes in 1945. He also had a significant role socially, and created a legacy of outreach, ensuring that music and drama education was available to an increased number of people and he also built institutions to ensure the continuity of musical literacy and awareness. This aspect of his life tied in with his compositional style – he had a tonal language that would allow amateurs and professionals to enjoy listening to, performing and appraising his music, while rejecting the avant-garde movement as something that in his view isolated the music from the general population.
As a child, Britten learned piano with Ethel Astle, took viola lessons with Audrey Alston and through his viola teacher, met the composer Frank Bridge. By the age of 14, Britten had composed around 100 works and Bridge was so impressed with him, he persuaded Britten’s parents to allow him to travel to London for composition lessons. Britten’s String Quartet in F was one of his first substantial works, completed in 1928, followed soon after by Quatre chansons francaises, Rhapsody for string quartet and Quartettino. Each of these pieces show the influence of his teacher.