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Donald Mitchell remembers Hans Keller

Donald Mitchell, 3 September 1987

... I only need to hear a few bars from Mozart’s G minor Symphony (K. 550) and in a flash Hans is as vivid a presence as he was when he was alive. Not any old bars, mind you: to be precise, bars 125 to 136 of the finale, where in a remarkable unison passage which propels us into the development Mozart exploits (almost) the total resources of the chromatic scale ...

Biographical Materials

Alan Hollinghurst, 15 October 1981

Remembering Britten 
edited by Alan Blyth.
Hutchinson, 181 pp., £7.95, June 1981, 0 09 144950 2
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Britten and Auden in the Thirties: The Year 1936 
by Donald Mitchell.
Faber, 176 pp., £7.50, February 1981, 0 571 11715 5
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... Donald Mitchell recalls that Benjamin Britten had a low opinion of music critics in newspapers. Alan Blyth’s compilation Remembering Britten would have done little to make him change his mind: it is a book fundamentally misconceived and often grotesque in execution. The tributary volume of memoirs, such as the one Stephen Spender compiled after Auden’s death, has the value not only of illuminating its subject but of providing a complex shading of reaction and relation through the personalities of the contributors ...

‘Stravinsky’

Paul Driver, 23 January 1986

Dearest Bubushkin: Selected Letters and Diaries of Vera and Igor Stravinsky 
edited by Robert Craft.
Thames and Hudson, 239 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 500 01368 3
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Stravinsky: Selected Correspondence Vol. III 
edited by Robert Craft.
Faber, 543 pp., £35, October 1985, 0 571 13373 8
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... I have examined – those of Conversations and Expositions and Developments in the possession of Donald Mitchell, who edited them for Faber – do not indicate whatever Stravinsky’s contribution might have been; and that ‘very largely’ is just what one would like Craft to explain. The essay infuriatingly leaves open the question of Craft’s ...

Topping Entertainment

Frank Kermode: Britten, 28 January 2010

Journeying Boy: The Diaries of the Young Benjamin Britten 
edited by John Evans.
Faber, 576 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 571 23883 5
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... collection of Britten’s letters and diaries, entitled Letters from a Life and edited by Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed, appeared in 1991, and its first volume covers the same period as this new collection; but there was plenty of work for the new editor, John Evans. The diaries were begun when Britten was 15 and ended, rather abruptly, when he ...

The Biggest Rockets

Alex Ross: Gustav Mahler, 24 August 2000

Gustav Mahler. Vol. III. Vienna: Triumph and Disillusion (1904 to 1907) 
by Henry-Louis de La Grange.
Oxford, 1024 pp., £35, February 1999, 9780193151604
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The Mahler Companion 
edited by Donald Mitchell and Andrew Nicholson.
Oxford, 652 pp., £50, May 1999, 0 19 816376 2
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... December 1907. The tome, a thousand pages long, moves at the geological speed of one page a day. Donald Mitchell, the author of three books about Mahler, has edited a new one, The Mahler Companion. Two other biographies, by Peter Franklin and Jonathan Carr, have recently appeared. And, of course, there are recordings – well over a thousand versions of ...

Britten when young

Frank Kermode, 29 August 1991

Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten Vol. I 1923-39, Vol. II 1939-45 
edited by Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed.
Faber, 1403 pp., £75, June 1991, 9780571152216
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... for the term ‘selected’ is perhaps doubtful. There may be omissions otherwise motivated. Mitchell’s long and informative Introduction says something about Britten’s earlier love affairs, and is candid enough about the rather awful, yet productive relationship with the mother, and the productive one with the permanent lover. Peter Pears had ...

In Hiding

Nicholas Spice, 30 December 1982

Richard Strauss: A Chronicle of the Early Years 1864-1898 
by Willi Schuh, translated by Mary Whitall.
Cambridge, 555 pp., £35, July 1982, 0 521 24104 9
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... have a duty to recognise this. They must not attempt to divert or thwart it, to persist, as Donald Mitchell puts it, ‘in the use ... of a language which has lost the power of meaningful speech’. This ‘exhausted language’ argument is aptly put against Strauss because he himself used it against Brahms. Its force is not so much intellectual as ...

Grand Old Sod

Paul Driver: William Walton, 12 December 2002

The Selected Letters of William Walton 
edited by Malcolm Hayes.
Faber, 526 pp., £30, January 2002, 0 571 20105 9
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William Walton: Muse of Fire 
by Stephen Lloyd.
Boydell, 332 pp., £45, June 2001, 9780851158037
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William Walton, the Romantic Loner: A Centenary Portrait Album 
by Humphrey Burton and Maureen Murray.
Oxford, 182 pp., £25, January 2002, 0 19 816235 9
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... and textual annotations (there are rather few of these, but at least he doesn’t try to emulate Donald Mitchell-Philip Reed’s ploy when editing Britten’s letters of slipping a full-blown biography into the footnotes) while always putting the case for the defence (if sometimes disapproving of Walton’s egotism). Stephen Lloyd’s solid monograph is ...

Mae West and the British Raj

Wendy Doniger: Dinosaur Icons, 18 February 1999

The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon 
by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 321 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 226 53204 6
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... burden to lay even on such a big animal, and requires some massive scholarly leverage; W.J.T. Mitchell invokes the secular trinity of Darwin, Marx and Freud. He traces the historical origin and development of our ideas about dinosaurs, through evolutionary theory and palaeontology (primarily Darwin and Cuvier), 19th and 20th-century history of ...

Short Cuts

Donald MacKenzie: Wall Street’s Fear Gauge, 25 January 2018

... to press, the VIX was 9.8. It has been low for many months, and shows no clear sign of increasing. Donald Trump would no doubt attribute the low readings to investors’ confidence in his leadership. But I have my doubts. There is an alternative explanation. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is often taken to mean that whenever you measure something, you ...

So Hard to Handle

John Lahr: In Praise of Joni Mitchell, 22 February 2018

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell 
by David Yaffe.
Farrar, Straus, 420 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 0 374 24813 0
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... With her​ high cheekbones and her flaxen hair, Joni Mitchell emerged in the late 1960s as some kind of hippy Venus with an overbite. She was the personification of the New Woman, liberated by the pill and by her talent to take ownership of her body, her art and her destiny. She was thoughtful, feisty, free-wheeling, ‘open to experience and in touch with the miraculous’, as she put it ...

An Enemy Within

Paul Foot, 23 April 1987

Molehunt: The Full Story of the Soviet Mole in MI5 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 208 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 297 79150 8
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... with the demise of the Labour Government, the Communist culprits were hunted down. Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled to Russia in 1951; Kim Philby was finally exposed in 1963; Anthony Blunt in 1979. The first three took refuge in Russia. Blunt died in disgrace, deserted both by the Leftist friends of his youth and by the Royal Family and his colleagues in ...

First Puppet, Now Scapegoat

Inigo Thomas: Ass-Chewing in Washington, 30 November 2006

State of Denial: Bush at War 
by Bob Woodward.
Simon and Schuster, 560 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7432 9566 8
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... wars, of which this is the third volume.* Woodward is not only granted audiences: he interviews Donald Rumsfeld, and others, at his home, in his own kitchen, over supper. If you’re Nigella-ish, you’ll be disappointed by his non-disclosure of what there was to eat.This hasn’t always been so. Woodward’s first Watergate article wasn’t about the ...

Set on Being Singular

Nick Richardson: Schoenberg, 20 October 2011

Arnold Schoenberg 
by Bojan Bujic.
Phaidon, 240 pp., £15, 0 7148 4614 7
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... rational’, emotionless, though this was never true of Schoenberg’s work. In 1963, the critic Donald Mitchell wrote that though Schoenberg’s serialist works ‘were hardly to be heard, the Method was … hotly disputed.’ The wrinkles ironed out, and the mysticism swept under the carpet, Schoenberg became known as the inventor of a system, the ...

Other Poems and Other Poets

Donald Davie, 20 September 1984

Notes from New York, and Other Poems 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, March 1984, 0 19 211959 1
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The Cargo 
by Neil Rennie.
TNR Productions, 27 pp., January 1984
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Collected Poems 1943-1983 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 383 pp., £14.95, April 1984, 0 85635 498 8
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... English-speakers) to just the degree that among the compatriots of Betjeman and Larkin and Adrian Mitchell he is a prophet without much honour; and there has not been lacking the rather plain implication: ‘Go and live with those furriners that like you so much.’ But Tomlinson won’t go away; and he insists on publishing in his native country – thanks ...

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