Press release

Culture Minister defers export of rediscovered Britten manuscript

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on Britten’s complete draft score of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on Benjamin Britten’s complete draft score of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.  This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the manuscript in the United Kingdom. 

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by Arts Council England. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that this is one of the most popular and well-loved of Benjamin Britten’s compositions and it has introduced generations of school children to classical music. Considering that The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is so closely connected with our history and national life, its departure would be a misfortune.

This manuscript is of outstanding significance for the study of British music, as well as being the work of one of the most important 20th century composers because it demonstrates the sophistication of Britten’s musical mind as he fluently sketched out the entire complex composition. Of the two autograph scores for this composition, this is both the more significant and the only one remaining in the UK.
The draft manuscript score was given away by the composer and remained completely unknown until it was included in the catalogue of Sotheby’s sale of 30 November 2011.

This manuscript, written in pencil on 15 leaves of paper, is a complete draft score of one of the most famous of Benjamin Britten’s compositions. In February 1945 Britten was commissioned by the Crown Film Unit to write the score for a short film about the orchestra and its instruments, as part of a series made for the Ministry of Education. The draft score is the earlier of two manuscripts of this work and was completed on 31 December 1945. The film and the music were recorded separately between March and June 1946, and the film was released in November.

Dr Christopher Wright, Reviewing Committee member, said:

This fascinating and highly important manuscript is deeply connected to our national life. The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra has formed a significant part of the musical education of generations of British schoolchildren.

The decision on the export licence application for the manuscript will be deferred for a period ending on 8 May 2012 inclusive. This period may be extended until 8 September 2012 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the manuscript at the recommended price of £220,000 is expressed. 

Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may also be considered by Mr Vaizey. Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to both parties through the sharing of tax advantages.

Notes to Editors

  1. For media information contact Sam Gough, Media Relations Officer, Arts Council England, Tel: 020 7973 5189 or 07872 416679, email: sam.gough@artscouncil.org.uk
  2. An image is available at the DCMS Flickr photostream.
  3. Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the manuscript should contact the owner’s agent through:

The Secretary
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
Arts Council England
14 Great Peter Street
London
SW1P 3NQ

Tel: 020 7973 5259
4. Anyone interested in making a matching offer and who requires further information about the manuscript from the Champion should contact The Secretary to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest at the above address.
5. For enquiries on the operation of and casework arising from the work of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) please contact Peter Rowlands, RCEWA Secretary, on 020 793 5259, email peter.rowlands@artscouncil.org.uk
6. The details of the manuscript are:
* Autograph working manuscript of the music to the film “Instruments of the Orchestra” [“The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”], signed on the title page “Benjamin Britten.”  
* 29 pages, large folio (c.36 x 26cms), 24-stave paper, on 6 successive bifolia and a final single leaf, [December 1945], some minor browning and tears to margins
7. Further details about the manuscript can be found in Sotheby’s auction catalogue.
8. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by Arts Council England, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair matching price.
9. Arts Council England (ACE) champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. It supports a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries - from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, ACE will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £0.85 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

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