Lot 160
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BRITTEN (BENJAMIN) Autograph letter signed ("Benjamin Britten"), to his fellow composer Rutland Boughton, thanking him for his kind words about The Dark Tower, although confessing himself too preoccupied by the production to appreciate how well it might be coming over; and looking forward to their meeting at Peter Grimes ("...I should of course be extremely happy to meet you (& discuss all the vicissitudes of opera!) when you come up for Peter Grimes... if possible we might have a meal together?..."), 2 pages, on blue writing-paper, 8vo, Snape, 26 January 1946


  • BENJAMIN BRITTEN TO RUTLAND BOUGHTON, referring to Peter Grimes and "the vicissitudes of opera": while Britten's Peter Grimes, which had received its first performance six months earlier in June 1945, is generally credited with the revival of English opera, dormant since the days of Purcell, it should be said that Boughton's Immortal Hour, first performed in 1914, received in 1922 an unprecedented run of 216 consecutive performances. Furthermore, both champions of English opera founded their own festivals, Boughton's at Glastonbury, which ran between 1914 and 1926 with later unsuccessful attempts at Stroud and Bath; while Britten's at Aldeburgh was to be founded two years later, in 1948. Louis MacNeice and Benjamin Britten's famous radio play The Dark Tower had been broadcast by the BBC Home Service on 21 January. As a retelling of the Childe Rowland story, it must have seemed natural territory to Rutland Boughton, preoccupied as he was with his own retelling of Arthurian legend (see the Shostakovich letter below).

    Michael Hurd, to whom this letter passed, was a leading authority on Boughton and wrote the article on him for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: "When only 19 he had sought out the composer Rutland Boughton for advice on his own music, but soon found himself producing the first book-length account of Boughton's life and music which became his first significant publication in 1962, much later expanded as Rutland Boughton and the Glastonbury Festivals for the Clarendon Press in 1993" (Lewis Foreman, Independent obituary, 16 August 2006).
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