Paul Kildea

Arnold Schoenberg and George Gershwin were two of the greatest architects of twentieth-century art music, each of them simultaneously an agent of continuity and disruption. The disruption is easy enough to chart: Schoenberg’s complete rewiring of tonality’s motherboard; Gershwin’s successful integration of jazz and symphonic music (more successful than the integration into American society of the greatest exponents of this same music). Although the continuity in each instance is slightly more nebulous, it is equally as compelling.

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Sometime in the early 1970s – his health poor, his country’s no better – the English composer Benjamin Britten asked his good friend and publisher Donald Mitchell to write his biography, imploring him to tell the truth about his long-term relationship with the tenor Peter Pears. In the ten years that followed Britten’s death in 1976, Mitchell amassed thoughts and notes, all the while deflecting the common query among friends and those outside the hallowed circle, ‘How’s the biography going?’

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Paul Kildea reviews 'Sontag: Her life' by Benjamin Moser

Paul Kildea
Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Sam Leith, literary editor of Spectator magazine, recently put author Benjamin Moser on the spot. ‘Do you think her work will last?’ he asked, referring to the writings of Susan Sontag, whose biography Moser had not long finished. ‘And if so, which of it?’ Moser dissembled bravely. ‘Well, I hope so ...

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Of all the tributary footage screened in the days following the death of Bob Hawke, one short sequence jarred. In it, Hawke conducts the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and orchestra in the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Handel’s Messiah, jerking and twitching in response to ...

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The author and critic Richard Ellmann died in May 1987, a handful of months before the publication of his biography of Oscar Wilde. Twenty years in the making, the book instantly established a benchmark in literary biography. Psychologically astute and critically nuanced, Oscar Wilde invites ...

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Chopin is the greatest of them all,’ Claude Debussy told his pupil Marguerite Long, ‘for through the piano alone he discovered everything.’ This ‘everything’ had a long shadow, for Long described Debussy as ‘impregnated, almost inhabited, by [Chopin’s] pianism’. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the young Debussy ...

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Some things are easier to lose than others, but how does a piano come to be mislaid? When that piano has been lugged up and down an island mountain, made one – perhaps two – sea crossings, and been looted by the Nazis, there could be any number of causes for its disappearance ...

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Visiting the actor Simon Gleeson in 2014 a few months after he was cast as Jean Valjean in a new production of Les Misérables, I was startled by the bulked-up friend who met me from the train ...

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2016 Arts Highlights of the Year

John Allison et al.
Wednesday, 26 October 2016

To highlight Australian Book Review’s arts coverage and to celebrate some of the year’s memorable concerts, operas, films, ballets, plays, and art exhibitions, we invited a group of critics and arts professionals to nominate some favourites.

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There is a moment early in the 'Heiliger Dankgesang' movement of Beethoven's Quartet Op. 132 when, without ceremony, an alien, courtly trio is plonked down ...

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