Benjamin Britten: A Life in the Twentieth Century
By Paul Kildea Allen Lane, 688pp, $45 (HB)
WHEN I attend a concert, an opera or a play I love, I make a mental pact with the performers to compel me to see the piece afresh. The same issue arises, surely, for anyone who reads a second biography, especially of a prominent figure in our intellectual or cultural life.
So much has been written about Benjamin Britten (1913-76) that Paul Kildea, an Australian musician who is an authority on the British composer, faced a great challenge with this centennial book, especially from Humphrey Carpenter’s equally large and thorough biography of 1992.
And it was not
just a question of comp-