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The Aldeburgh Festival is an English arts festival where classical music concerts take place during the summer. Aldeburgh is in Suffolk in the south-east of England. It is where the composer Benjamin Britten lived with his friend the tenor Peter Pears. A lot of Britten’s music is played at the festival, but music by many other composers can be heard as well. Most of the concerts take place in the Maltings, a concert hall in the village of Snape, not far away from Aldeburgh.
History of the Aldeburgh Festival
The Festival was started in 1948 by the Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and the librettist Eric Crozier. They started the festival so that the English Opera Group would have a place to perform their operas, but soon the festival became bigger. There were poetry readings, drama performances, lectures and art exhibitions. The first festival was mostly held in Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall, a few doors away from Britten's house in Crabbe Street. His opera Albert Herring was performed, as well as his St Nicolas Cantata.
Over the years the festival grew. Some of the performances took place in the church, or in churches or other halls in nearby villages and small towns such as Orford and Framlingham. However, the festival needed a large concert hall. In the 1960s the old malthouse (where barley used to be made) in Snape was changed into a concert hall. It was opened by the Queen on 2 June 1967, at the start of the twentieth Aldeburgh Festival.
Two years later, on the first night of the 1969 Festival, the concert hall was destroyed by fire. Only the main walls remained. For that year the Festival was moved to other local places, but by the next year the hall had been rebuilt and once again it was opened by the Queen, this time at the start of the 1970 Festival.
The Festival today
The festival is now organized by Aldeburgh Music, which also runs the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme which gives young musicians a chance to learn from famous music teachers and perform in concerts.
The festival has a nice atmosphere because it is in the country near the sea and marshes. New music is often performed. In the past there have been first performances of several works by Britten: (A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1960; Death in Venice in 1973) and also Harrison Birtwistle's Punch and Judy in 1968.