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Bass-Baritone John Shirley-Quirk, Legendary Britten Interpreter, Dead at 82

by James Inverne   Apr 10, 2014 10:11 AM EDT

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The English bass-baritone John Shirley-Quirk, one of the greatest of his generation, has died aged 82. Although he arguably could have turned his burnished voice, full of vibrant energy (often tastefully restrained by its owner), to a wider repertoire, there is no doubt that he knows what he did supremely well and concentrated on doing it.

The area he will be best-remembered for are the works of Benjamin Britten, who spotted the former chemistry teacher and invited him to work with his English Opera Group. Shirley-Quirk created and interpreted many Britten roles, not least the ambiguous multiple roles in Death in Venice.

His career was a long one, with a magnificent, Gramophone Award-winning recording of the Britten War Requiem in 1992 (one of the few recordings of Britten vocal works to be generally acknowledged to at least equal the composer's own).

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