In the context of the 20th century, Benjamin Britten has emerged asa composer who developed his own creative techniques without fol-lowing a recognized school or the dominant influences of a master teacher. While he could not be described as an iconoclast in any fundamental sense, in the middle decades of the century he was one of the most thoroughly original composers to hold the interest of the musical public. At least some of that originality grew from his thoroughly English musical heritage or, some would say, the lack of it. England had produced several important composers in the early part of the centuryEdward Elgar and Gustav Holst are the best known-but the preceding centuries had witnessed no flourishing talents native to England that would match the level of those active in Germany, Italy, France, and the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire centered around Vienna. Britten developed without a direct line of musical tradition and was free, or perhaps forced, to develop his own musical voice. He could draw on any sources suiting his purposes, and in that process he created music that was accessible to audiences around the world.