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Like Buttermilk from a Jug

Oliver Soden: Ivor Gurney’s Groove, 22 September 2022

Dweller in Shadows: A Life of Ivor Gurney 
by Kate Kennedy.
Princeton, 488 pp., £28, June 2021, 978 0 691 21278 4
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... In March​ 1918, Ivor Gurney spoke to Beethoven. It was three years since the war had interrupted his studies at the Royal College of Music, and a few months since he had ended up in a casualty clearing station in France, his right arm wounded and his lungs gassed, correcting the proofs of his verse collection Severn and Somme. Back in Britain, he drifted from hospital to hospital, diagnosed with ‘soldier’s heart’, a complaint more common than shellshock ...

Mushroom Cameo

Rosemary Hill: Noël Coward’s Third Act, 29 June 2023

Masquerade: The Lives of Noël Coward 
by Oliver Soden.
Weidenfeld, 634 pp., £30, March 2023, 978 1 4746 1280 7
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... distress. Birbeck has missed the big story and goes away with a picture and a few garbled notes.Oliver Soden doesn’t make simplistic deductions about Coward’s life and character from his work but, as he points out, the plays contain many direct statements on questions about which later commentators have claimed to be puzzled. So explicit is Design ...

His Own Sort of Outsider

Philip Clark: Tippett’s Knack, 16 July 2020

Michael Tippett: The Biography 
by Oliver Soden.
Weidenfeld, 750 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4746 0602 8
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... fifth symphony for orchestra in all but name) flew off the page with improvisational abandon.Oliver Soden​ was born in 1990, and his Life of Tippett is refreshingly free of old prejudices and stale arguments. (The previous standard text, Ian Kemp’s Tippett: The Composer and His Music, was sketchy on biographical detail and appeared in 1984, when ...


Alan Bennett: What I Did in 2015, 7 January 2016

... Riding and probably not even in the country. No wonder Corbyn is ahead of the rest.1 September. Oliver Sacks dies, my first memory of whom was as an undergraduate in his digs in Keble Road in Oxford when I was with Eric Korn and possibly, over from Cambridge, Michael Frayn. Oliver said that he had fried and eaten a ...

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