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Paul Kildea

Paul Kildea

Paul Kildea is the author of Benjamin Britten: A life in the twentieth century (2013) and Chopin's Piano: A journey through Romanticism (2018). He lives in Melbourne and is Artistic Director of Musica Viva.

Paul Kildea reviews ‘Ian Fleming: The complete man’ by Nicholas Shakespeare

January-February 2024, no. 461 18 December 2023
The smallest, dullest link in the fateful chain binding John F. Kennedy and his assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is that both men were big fans of the fictional spy James Bond. In the immediate aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, when investigators searched the tiny boarding room in Dallas that Oswald rented for $8 per week, they found the four Bond books that citizen Oswald had ass ... (read more)

Paul Kildea reviews 'Masquerade: The lives of Noël Coward' by Oliver Soden

August 2023, no. 456 25 July 2023
CAST NOËL COWARD, a playwright, director, actor and composer IVOR NOVELLO, a composer and actor GERTRUDE LAWRENCE, an actress GEORGE GERSHWIN, a composer W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM, a writer VIRGINIA WOOLF, a novelist CHARLIE CHAPLIN, an actor and filmmaker IGOR STRAVINSKY, a composer LAURENCE OLIVIER, an actor GRETA GARBO, a movie star JOAN SUTHERLAND, a soprano PET SNAKE, a reptile, alle ... (read more)

‘Simone Young Conducts Mahler 2: SSO triumphs in a new acoustic’ by Paul Kildea

ABR Arts 22 July 2022
At drinks following the first performance of this sold-out run of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, conductor Simone Young chatted to mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, the latter’s hoarse voice alarming the two of them. ‘We need to call Debbie,’ Young told a colleague, wary of what the morrow would bring. ‘Right now!’ The Debbie concerned is mezzo Deborah Humble, whom Simone had conducted ... (read more)

Paul Kildea reviews 'Writing in the Dark: Bloomsbury, the Blitz and Horizon Magazine' by Will Loxley

March 2022, no. 440 20 February 2022
In late March 1941, more than six months into the relentless German aerial campaign that was then destroying great swaths of London’s fabric and spirit, Virginia Woolf filled the pockets of her heavy overcoat with stones and waded into the River Ouse. Her suicide occurs halfway through Will Loxley’s scattergun study of English writers and writing during the war, though its inevitability haunts ... (read more)

Paul Kildea reviews 'Wulff: Britten’s young Apollo' by Tony Scotland

December 2021, no. 438 24 November 2021
In 2002 the English filmmaker John Bridcut visited The Red House in Aldeburgh, the archive housing the papers of Benjamin Britten and his long-time partner, Peter Pears. Bridcut was early in his research for a project he would realise two years later as the documentary film Britten’s Children, and then, after another two years, as a book of the same name. I was then head of music at the Aldeburg ... (read more)

Paul Kildea reviews 'Henry ‘Chips’ Channon: The diaries 1918–38' edited by Simon Heffer

July 2021, no. 433 23 June 2021
At a sports carnival early in Evelyn Waugh’s novel Decline and Fall, the schnockered schoolmaster Prendergast, unsteadily wielding a starting pistol, shoots poor Lord Tangent in the foot. Thereafter, Tangent barely appears in the narrative, with only a sentence now and then charting his slow medical decline. ‘Everybody else, however, was there except little Lord Tangent, whose foot was being a ... (read more)

'Letter from Adelaide: Presenting "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" during a pandemic' by Paul Kildea

March 2021, no. 429 22 February 2021
January 5 We have lost our Hermia, so Sally-Anne Russell comes round to sing for me. She has fished out Benjamin Britten’s Charm of Lullabies and her score of The Rape of Lucretia. We work on both, but particularly on the aria in which poor Lucretia threads together gorgeous lilies into a funeral wreath, her response to what the boastful, ghastly Tarquinius has done to her. Sally-Anne has not s ... (read more)

Paul Kildea reviews 'Summertime: George Gershwin’s life in music' by Richard Crawford

August 2020, no. 423 27 July 2020
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 o ... (read more)

Paul Kildea reviews 'The Letters of Cole Porter' edited by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh

April 2020, no. 420 20 March 2020
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 defle ... (read more)

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

November 2019, no. 416 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 ...’ Yet was it dissembling? Or even brave, for that matter? Sontag’s oeuvre need not ... (read more)
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