Monday April 29 2019

During the open season at The Red House the Britten-Pears Foundation’s Archive is open to the public. Once a month we select a box of interesting items from our collection to show to visitors, known as the ‘Box of Delights’. Anyone is welcome to see this box in the Archive, Tuesday to Friday at 2.30pm, 3.30pm and 4.15pm.

Emma Blowers, Archive Graduate Trainee explore’s this month’s theme which is around food-related items from our collections, and was inspired by the Aldeburgh Marmalade Competition we hosted on the 6 March.

The Food of Love cookbook

Britten and Pears contributed their ideal menu to a cookbook called The Food of Love in 1970. The published copy is usually on display in the dining room of The Red House, but this month we have moved it to the archive to be included in our box of delights. Britten and Pears received letters from the editor of the book, Adrian Ball, and Michael Tippett, along with a copy of Tippett’s menu, with the intention of raising money for the Bath Festival Society (which Tippett was Artistic Director from 1969-1974). Britten and Pears took part alongside other famous musicians from around the world, including Julian Bream and Yehudi Menuhin. Here in the archive, we have Britten’s drafts of his recipes; including ‘Miss Hudson’s soup’, made by his long-serving housekeeper and cook, and ‘Soles Red House’, cooked with fish that he instructed to be bought fresh from the fishermen on Aldeburgh beach.

If you would like to find out more about Britten’s connection to Michael Tippett you can read about this year’s exhibition Tippett and Britten: Portrait of a wartime friendship.

Drafts of Britten’s recipes.

Recipes for Imo

Recipes for Imo is a handmade cookery book made for Imogen Holst by her friend and former student, Lorna Letcher. Letcher has handwritten basic recipes for Imogen to follow. Throughout the book, Letcher has inserted cut-outs from magazines and decorated the pages. During the Aldeburgh Marmalade Competition, we were able to find a marmalade recipe in our archive which was found in one of Holst’s other cookery books, Tried Favourites by E. Kirk.

Pages from Imogen Holst’s Recipe Book.

Pears in Armenia

Another item we included was this photograph of Pears holding mushrooms in Armenia. Britten actually didn’t like mushrooms himself – he apparently had a dream about a post-nuclear mushroom cloud and that is why he said he didn’t like mushrooms! This photograph was taken on a trip Pears and Britten undertook in the summer of 1965 with their friends, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and singer Galina Vishnevskaya, as guests of the Amenian Composers’ Union. Britten composed one of his works there: The Poet’s Echo, and the song cycle is dedicated to Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya.

Photo of Pears in Armenia in the summer of 1965 with wild mushrooms.

Photo of Pears laughing with pianist Aza Amintayeva (left) and Galina Vishnevskaya (middle) and demonstrating the disparity of the wild mushrooms they have found.

Myfanwy Piper’s notebook

Myfanwy Piper’s papers have recently been catalogued, and their descriptions should soon be available on our online catalogue. They include her notebooks for writing the libretto for Death in Venice from 1971-1973. Her notebooks contain revised libretto drafts as well as her personal notes and to-do lists. The contents seem very disordered, suggesting she took her notebooks and worked on the libretto wherever she went! One of her notebooks includes a recipe with the ingredients listed: butter, flaked almonds, sugar and flour – perhaps a recipe for some Italian biscuits?

The Box of Delights is available for visitors to view in the Britten-Pears Foundation’s Archive at 2.30pm, 3.30pm and 4.15pm, Tuesday to Friday.