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The greater part of this book consists of the 27 articles, reviews and programme notes which comprise all of Hans Keller’s published writings on Stravinsky. Part Two is devoted to prints and drawings by Milein Cosman, Keller’s widow. most of these were done at rehearsals for BBC concerts Stravinsky conducted in 1958, 1959 and 1961. They are supplemented by sketches of productions of The Rake’s Progress and Petrushka. The sketches of the composer in action are simply marvellous, uncannily bringing him to life as no other artist has, in my experience.

Keller himself is better known for his extensive writings on Schoenberg and Britten, but his enthusiastic and informed appreciation of Stravinsky is almost equally important. Possessed of a powerful intellect, Keller was a formidable presence in British musical life until his death in 1985. His earliest writings in the field of psychology and sociology influenced his writing on music. He became feared as much as respected, because his aim was intellectual honesty – in his own words, ‘to state the truth without regard for its reception’. This often resulted in writing which was dogmatic, charmless and fiercely didactic, and it is hard to warm to his addiction to paradox. Keller can also be gratuitously unpleasant. About Paul Griffiths, for instance, he writes: ‘What does not emerge is musicianship proper … he doesn’t know that difference between description and analysis.’ Keller suggests that he ‘might consider an unconventional personal course of action – to master one or two disciplines of the art of music itself’. For those readers who can take his mercilessly superior tone – as well as the impenetrable nature of some of his sentences – there will be much of interest here, especially on the psychology of Stravinsky’s late adoption of Schoenberg’s 12-note method. among the works discussed are the Symphony of Psalms, the violin concerto (including a page-and-a-half on a bowing of two notes!), Perséphone, and the concerto in D for strings, while there is also an analysis of the setting In memoriam Dylan Thomas: Do not go gentle.

PHILIP BORG-WHEELER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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