Letter:Attack on Britten is sour grapes

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Sir: I read with increasing disbelief and disgust the derision of Benjamin Britten by Malcolm Williamson ("Queen's musician in attack on Britten", 26 July). If they were with us today, the lives of many of the great composers and artists would fill the pages of the tabloids for weeks. It is for their work that great artists and musicians should surely be remembered, not their personal foibles.

It is a cliche that there is nothing so bitter as a family dispute, and in the family of music, Williamson is trying to denigrate a fellow composer whose music is internationally applauded and respected. My wife and I listen to music a great deal and have a lot of Britten. We have no Williamson and, off the top of my head, I cannot recall any that I'd want to possess. For Williamson to say that "Britten's music is ephemeral. It will not last" is really going out on a limb.

Academia, for in a sense that is where the life and work of great musicians and artists is placed, is renowned for its sour grapes. The artist Augustus John's work has superbly surmounted his most torrid sex life and I've little doubt that Britten's will do the same. I do not see posterity in the Master of the Queen's Music. To borrow Shakespeare, "My lords, he doth protest too much".

LORD BROADBRIDGE

House of Lords

London SW1

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