Misha Donat

Misha Donat, a Radio 3 music producer for 26 years, bid John Birt’s BBC a less than fond farewell in 1999.

When the celebrated violinist Joseph Joachim visited Schumann in the asylum at Endenich, near Bonn, in May 1855, he discovered that the composer – by this time in the tertiary stage of syphilis – had been spending his time compiling an alphabetical list of cities. Nearly a year later, Brahms found Schumann doing almost the same thing: ‘I looked again at his reading matter,’ he reported back to Joachim. ‘It was an atlas and he was occupied with making excerpts, childish ones, of course. Towns, rivers, etc. whose names begin with Aab, Ab, Aba, etc., gathering together the many St Juans, etc. He showed me a whole lot of paper completely covered with such writing.’’‘

German Trash

Misha Donat, 11 January 1990

The first thing that strikes the reader of Professor Landon’s many books is how very likeable they are. His enthusiasm and energy have remained undimmed over the years, and his disarmingly unpretentious style of writing brings the world of late 18th-century Austria vividly to life. The preface to 1791 begins with a description of how the author first fell under the spell of Mozart’s music at the age of 13, and ends with a sentiment with which few would want to take issue: ‘The Mozartian legacy … is as good an excuse for mankind’s existence as we shall ever encounter and is perhaps, after all, a still small hope for our ultimate survival.’

The German Ideal

Misha Donat, 30 December 1982

The reader of this scrupulously-edited volume will look in vain for the source of the most famous critical observation attributed to Weber – made apropos of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, that its creator was now ‘ripe for the madhouse’. The remark was quoted by Anton Schindler in the revised edition of his far from reliable biographical reminiscences of Beethoven, originally published in 1840. Schindler was unable to trace the origin of Weber’s comment, and had to content himself with offering his readers the promise that it would turn up ‘sooner or later’ among the composer’s posthumous papers. He also printed an extract from Weber’s unfinished novel, Tonkünstlers Leben, in which the composer-hero dreams himself transported to a concert hall, where a furious orchestral argument is taking place:

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