Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Creative Arts


School of Music

Committee Chair

Christopher Wilkinson.


Benjamin Britten composed five song cycles for voice and piano to be performed by his partner, tenor Peter Pears: Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo , opus 22 (1940), The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, opus 35 (1945), Winter Words, opus 52 (1953), Sechs Holderlin Fragmente, opus 61 (1958), and Who Are These Children?, opus 84 (1969). These five cycles span almost the entire length of their personal relationship, the first having been composed the year they consummated their relationship in the United States, and the last seven years before the composer's death. These compositions give insight into the way that Britten wrote for the man with whom he shared his life, especially in terms of the texts he chose to set, the way he organized those texts into a narrative, and the way he used his partner's voice to express these texts.;This paper includes a brief biography of the two men, a discussion of the five cycles within the context of Britten's compositional output, and examines each of the five cycles in terms of the selection of the text, the dramatic construction of each cycle, as well as the use of the voice in each song. When relevant to the discussion, matters of accompaniment, key, form, and other musical aspects of the songs are also discussed. The paper also includes a comprehensive bibliography of sources about Britten and Pears.