From The Archives…

This photographic treasure, hidden for decades in a private archive recently sold at auction, is the only known record of a meeting between four pioneering composers of the twentieth century: see, (l. to r.), Maurice Ravel, Arnold Schoenberg, Elizabeth Maconchy and Benjamin Britten.

Scholars are still attempting to discover the date and place of this remarkable meeting…


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3 thoughts on “From The Archives…

  1. Is there any information as to the (archival/custodial) context in which the photograph was found? Were there any other photographs in the same volume/fonds that might elucidate? Presumably, such information would be very scant or nonexistent in a heretofore unknown private archive (especially if the archive has been broken-up…).

    Of the four, Ravel died first, on this day (28th December) in 1937, aged 62 years, so that is the latest possible date. At that point, Schoenberg was 63 years old, Maconchy 30, and Britten 24. It is abundantly clear that Britten (the youngest of the four) was an adult in the photograph, so it cannot have been taken more than a few years before Ravel died.

    But Schoenberg had emigrated to the USA in 1933 (his ship arrived in New York on 31st October that year), never to return to Europe. I am not aware of the other three having travelled to North America during 1933–1937 (although Britten lived there during 1939–1942), so I am inclined to assume the photograph must have been taken before Schoenberg departed Europe. Given that Britten turned 20 in November 1933, it is hard to imagine the photograph dating from much earlier.

    So, I would be inclined to conjecture “mid-1933 somewhere in Paris”, since Schoenberg (58 or 59) was then in Paris (having fled Nazi Germany in mid-May 1933, acting on a warning telegram from Rudolf Kolisch), Ravel (58) lived not far from Paris, and it is perfectly plausible that Maconchy (26) and Britten (19) may have travelled there.

    Then again, maybe Britten looked like an adult from a precocious age, so it may be a little bit earlier. Does the Britten-Pears archive have any contemporaneous photographs of Britten in his late teens to serve as comparators?


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