Paul Driver

Paul Driver has written about music for the Sunday Times since 1985. He edited a volume of Kipling’s short stories for Penguin and is the author of Manchester Pieces, a book of stories and essays, and the novel A Metropolitan Recluse.

A, E♭, C, B: Robert Schumann

Paul Driver, 21 February 2008

Robert Schumann died in an asylum near Bonn in 1856, having committed himself there two years before, following a suicidal plunge into the Rhine near his home in Düsseldorf. He had had many periods of depression and anxiety before that, and biographers have tended to regard his life as a continuous fight against the congenital mental instability to which the deaths of his sister and...

Happy Man: Stravinsky

Paul Driver, 8 February 2007

At the end of his two-volume biography, Stephen Walsh writes that Igor Stravinsky’s music is ‘the one unquestioned staple of the modern repertoire, the body of work that, more than any other, stands as an icon of 20th-century musical thought and imagery’. There couldn’t be a richer subject for a musical biographer and Walsh admits to having an obsession with his...

Felix Mendelssohn, named for happiness, and privileged from birth, was one of the most musical men who has ever lived. He could paint, draw and write almost as well as he could compose. He read Homer in Greek and spoke half a dozen other languages. He had a curatorial flair, playing a large part in the rescue of Bach’s music from oblivion, as well as Schubert’s ‘Great’...

Grand Old Sod: William Walton

Paul Driver, 12 December 2002

Malcolm Hayes tells us that the letters he has selected are merely a quarter of a fifth of those so far available, but one would not want the volume longer. William Walton is no prose stylist, not much of an anecdotalist, and his letters reveal remarkably little about him. They are nearly always utilitarian – money, advice, favours to be sought, contracts to be finalised, parts to be...

Early in 1914 Jean Sibelius visited Berlin and went to hear Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet, in which an added soprano sings of ‘air from other planets’ as the music moves towards atonality. ‘It gave me a lot to think about,’ he wrote in the diary that he kept for much of the second half of his life and on which his biographer Erik Tawaststjerna relies heavily. A few days earlier, a Schoenberg song had made a ‘deep impression’ on him and he had found the Op. 9 Chamber Symphony ‘a legitimate and valid way of looking at things … But it is certainly painful to listen to. A result achieved by excessive cerebration.’ This encounter with Schoenberg occurred just over halfway through Sibelius’s life and in the middle of the original five volume version of this biography.

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