Benjamin Britten

Classical podcast: Britten Spring Symphony

It may be tempting providence to programme Benjamin Britten's Spring Symphony in Manchester at precisely the time that the season of renewal should well and truly have sprung

These New Puritans - The new pastoralists

These New Puritans meld inspirations as diverse as the Essex countryside, Benjamin Britten, and Japanese drums to create a unique music that sounds as though it's from a weird, private cult. Nick Hasted meets the foursome

Best music books for Christmas

Books on classical music are these days as rare as hens' teeth. Indeed, only Faber, with its links to Benjamin Britten, features at least one title per season. And for the true Britten aficionado (or those whose curiosity was piqued by The Habit of Art), there's John Evans's Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten (£25). Of broader appeal is Susie Gilbert's Opera for Everybody: The Story of English National Opera (Faber, £25). The company, product of late Victorian philanthropy, began life at the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells before settling at the Coliseum in the 1960s – a people's opera to rival Covent Garden. Thatcherism inflicted more damage than two world wars, and it has never entirely recovered.

Britten, the boy wonder

Music the composer wrote as a child can now be heard for the first time. It shows a precocious genius, says Lynne Walker

The Beggar's Opera, Royal Opera House, London

You could experience a momentary double-take walking into the Royal Opera's Linbury Studio Theatre – thinking you've taken a wrong turn into the main house, as a cross-section of the ornate balconies and familiar red curtains of the latter confronts you. John Gay's original The Beggar's Opera was so successful that it laid the foundations for the theatre that is now the Royal Opera House.