Hans Keller

Hans Keller, who came to Britain in 1938 after the Anschluss, worked for many years for the BBC’s Music Department. He wrote for the BBC magazine the Listener, and when Karl Miller and Mary-Kay Wilmers, who had both worked there, started the LRB he began to write for it too, and to send many combative letters to the editors. ‘Dear Hans,’ Miller wrote to him in 1980, ‘Every day I find a large accumulation of letters of contention and complaint addressed to me. Most of them are from you.’ He died in 1985 and is pictured on the cover of the LRB of 3 September 1987, to accompany a piece about him by Donald Mitchell. Nicholas Spice wrote about his life and his criticism in the paper in 2021.

Words about Music

Hans Keller, 30 December 1982

My fairly extensive – and, analytically, intensive – writings about Stravinsky confine themselves to his music and the psychology of his creativity – to the products and the nature of his towering genius. About the human being I have never yet written a word: the greater the genius the less there is of a causal connection or correlation between his life and his art – whence Beethoven came to be the communicator of profound, unmixed joy:

Music and Beyond

Hans Keller, 21 October 1982

In decades of reviewing, I have never yet received three books which I would spontaneously turn into the subject of a single article. How Eisler and Henze hang together need hardly be explained: but ‘poles apart’ would be a misleading metaphor for them, on the one hand, and Cooke, on the other, for the North Pole and the South Pole have more in common. Amusingly enough, Eisler’s ambivalently beloved teacher Schoenberg lived in the world of Cooke, who, likewise ambivalently and at least theoretically, felt uneasy about the destroyer of tonality.

From the simple question of the quality of reportage through the central problem of footballing professionalism to the downright philosophical challenges which peaks of human endeavour (any peak, any endeavour) inevitably present, the latest World Cup proved both the most informative and the most insight-provoking ever – ever since, that is, television has enabled football-loving humanity to watch World Cups away from home. Television has, moreover, enabled the truth-loving sports fan to check, for the first time in the history of reportage, its reliability: the inevitable tautology of the televisual sports commentary – you hear what you see – enables us to see what we don’t hear and hear what we don’t see – quite a shock for those who tend to accept, unquestioningly, the facts of the expert reporter.

Football and Music

Hans Keller, 4 February 1982

Why this reviewer for Harewood’s autobiography? Despite extreme dissimilarities, the two of us share utterly unrelated, central preoccupations – music and football, with football, too, being drawn into our professional lives. The difference is that whereas I – a born musician with an infantile passion for football – insist on the lack of relation to the extent of avoiding musical metaphors in my writings on football and footballing metaphors in my musical writings and teaching, Harewood actually attempts to integrate his heterogeneous passions, at least theoretically.

National Institutions

Hans Keller, 15 October 1981

Its last chapter apart – an irrelevant ‘After-thought’ whose autobiographical explosion inextricably interweaves deep historical insights with a strong composer’s inevitable prejudices – Robert Simpson’s impersonal challenge is spotlessly objective, sternly factual and, at the same time, unashamedly ethical. His scrupulous analysis of the Proms’ past yields a practical proposal as well as what already seems to have proved an indisputable moral message – both substantiated by comprehensive, complex statistics, yet each glaringly simple in substance.

Keller’s Causes

Robin Holloway, 3 August 1995

In his heyday, from the late Forties to around the start of William Glock’s regime at the Third Programme (afterwards Radio Three), Hans Keller’s vehement presence was a force for the...

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Aghast

Philip Booth, 30 December 1982

The husband-and-wife team of Hans Keller and Milein Cosman looks at Stravinsky in his later years from two very different points of view: on the one hand, that of the rational music critic and...

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