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Chapter 1 - Early Mentors

The Bridges, the Auden Set, and the Mayers of Long Island

from Part I - The Britten Circle(s)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2022

Vicki P Stroeher
Affiliation:
Marshall University, West Virginia
Justin Vickers
Affiliation:
Illinois State University
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Summary

Guide, advisor, teacher, tutor – the connotations of ‘mentor’ are unambiguous enough, and the relationships that arose between the young and older Britten and more experienced acquaintances outside the immediate family are invariably matters of interest to biographers and critics. Britten first met the composer and conductor Frank Bridge in 1927, and remained in close contact until Britten’s move to America in 1939. He first met W. H. Auden on joining the GPO Film Unit in 1935, and soon encountered several of Auden’s literary associates, including Christopher Isherwood, Louis MacNeice and Stephen Spender. While in America (1939–42) Britten and Peter Pears lived for a time in Auden’s New York house, after a spell with the Mayer family on Long Island. The Bridges, the Mayers, and Auden and his associates all contributed to the social and aesthetic context within which Britten was able to produce his early compositions, and while a different set of mentors and friends could have had an identical effect, the distinctive qualities of those who actually filled these roles are what matters here. It was in Britten’s nature to resist potentially intrusive mentoring as much as to invite it.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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