UK composers describe Pandit Ravi Shankar as ‘real thing’

UK composers describe Pandit Ravi Shankar as ‘real thing’

'An hour of the real thing. Ravi Shankar,a wonderful virtuoso.'

Two of Britain’s most famous musicians,Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears,have described Pandit Ravi Shankar as ‘the real thing’ after experiencing a performance by the Indian sitar maestro in the early 1950s.

The year 2013 is being marked by centenary celebrations for composer Britten and curators of a restoration project have found a letter on the letterhead of Mumbai’s Taj Hotel that captures his adoration for Shankar.

“An hour of the real thing. Ravi Shankar,a wonderful virtuoso,played his own Indian music to us at the radio station. Brilliant,fascinating,stimulating,wonderfully played. Unbelievable skill and invention,” reads the letter of observations by Britten and opera singer Pears,who will now form a museum in the Red House in Suffolk.

The Red House is where the musicians lived and worked from 1957 until their death and from June 8 the site in Aldeburgh re-opens after a 4.7-million pounds redevelopment to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Britten ¿ 20th century’s most-performed opera composer.


Besides their memories of ‘green and yellow squawk,kites float,monkeys caper,butterflies’,the duo also recorded their experience of tipping as they left the hotel in Mumbai for the Taj Mahal in Agra.

“We take a small aeroplane from Delhi,confusion intense at getting off at hotel,paying bill. Tips are a burning problem in India. There is a row of entirely unknown faces,eager,perhaps worthy people who have cleaned one’s shoes,washed clothes,mended them,dusted one’s rooms,brought breakfast,laid the fire,made the bed,lift boys,porters,waiters,all different. But how many does one tip,” their letter notes.

A commemorative blue plaque has also been unveiled at Britten’s childhood home in Lowestoft as part of the centenary celebrations in Aldeburgh ¿ where he founded the annual classical music festival.

The UK Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has given 1.4 million pounds to the Britten-Pears Foundation’s Red House Project.

Britten,who died in 1976,was born at what is now a guest house at 21 Kirkley Cliff Road on November 22,1913.