Paul Kildea

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 amputated in a local nursing home.’ And later still: ‘It’s maddenin’ Tangent having died just at this time,’ some old sea dog mutters.

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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 sung the opera for twenty-five years, but it sounds as though she’s fresh from recording it, so inside the role is she, so beautiful and rich her voice. I phone Neil Armfield. We have found our Hermia.

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Paul Kildea is a man of many parts – author, musician, new artistic director of Musica Viva – and a regular contributor to ABR. In this week’s podcast, he talks to Peter Rose about the challenges of programming Musica Viva’s season during a pandemic and about Benjamin Britten, whose opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a highlight of the 2021 Adelaide Festival. Paul Kildea – who will conduct the opera – is the author of a biography of Britten.

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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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The Letters of Cole Porter edited by Cliff Eisen and Dominic McHugh

by
April 2020, no. 420

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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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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