A study day devoted to new Britten research took place on 4 April 2008 at the John Innes Centre, Norwich. The event was hosted by the Britten Thematic Catalogue project and organised by Lucy Walker, Chris Grogan and Jonathan Manton. It was followed in the evening by a concert performed by Chamber Orchestra Anglia under the direction of Sharon Choa, Director of the Britten Thematic Catalogue project and lecturer at the School of Music at UEA.
The papers from the study day were published in 2009 by Boydell & Brewer in the form of a book of essays, entitled Benjamin Britten: New Perspectives on his Life and Music.
This volume represents the most recent research in Britten scholarship, with contributors ranging from established Britten scholars, musicologists from other fields with a developing interest in Britten, and current postgraduates writing doctoral theses on Britten. Since the publication of The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Britten (ed. Mervyn Cooke) in 1999 there has not been a published volume of scholarly essays devoted to Britten, and the range of perspectives on Britten's music covered in this volume constitutes not only new scholarship but the changing nature of Britten scholarship in particular.
Cooke, in his introduction to The Cambridge Companion was troubled by what seemed to be a worryingly persistent bigotry towards certain elements of Britten's life which has contributed, at times, to a negative public perception of his work. Some Britten scholars have striven to rehabilitate Britten from adverse responses, and this approach has often flavoured critical writings in the past. It is a feature of this new collection that while some of the ‘controversial' elements of Britten's history are engaged with head on in at least two of the essays, they are not necessarily excused. In sum, this collection reveals that the field of Britten studies is wide open - perhaps more so now than it has been at any time in the past.
The introduction to the volume provides an overview of the collection in relation to past and present Britten studies, and also considers the future of Britten scholarship in the context of development of the Britten Thematic Catalogue.