On Mahler and Britten: Essays in Honour of Donald Mitchell on His Seventieth Birthday.
This volume is a Festschrift of twenty-eight essays in honor of Donald Mitchell, one of England's foremost musicologists and a prolific writer on musical matters of all kinds Included is a bibliography of his works between 1945 and 1995, which runs to thirty-one pages, citing books, editions of music, articles, reviews, program notes, and radio broadcasts on a large variety of topics. He has devoted special attention to Gustav Mahler and Benjamin Britten, hence the content of the present volume.
Several of the articles are biographical in nature. Henry-Louis de la Grange's essay addresses many misconceptions concerning Mahler's association with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. A substantial contribution by Paul Banks discusses Mahler and Viennese Modernism, with particular insight into his influence on Arnold Schoenberg. John Williamson writes about Mahler's relationship with Hans Pfitzner, and David Drew writes about Britten's relationships with Kurt Weill, Darius Milhaud, Paul Hindetnith, Igor Markevich, Roberto Gerhard, and Leopold Spinner. David Matthews's "In Search of Mahler's Childhood" describes the Czechoslovakia the composer knew in his boyhood. An essay by Peter Franklin examines the source materials of two of the earliest contributors to Mahler biographical studies--Natalie Bauer-Lechner and Alma Schindler, his wife. Asa Briggs's "Mahler and the BBC" chronicles Mahler's early reception in England.
Essays by Ludmila Kovnatskaya on Peter Crimes, by Eric Roseberry on "Abraham and Isaac," and by Mervyn Cooke on the church parables are analytical in nature. Contributions by Edward Reilly on Mahler's Ninth Symphony and by Philip Reed on Billy Budd are studies of the composers' manuscript sketches. An article by Somsak Ketukaenchan, head of music at Bangkok's Srinakharinwirot University, discusses the influence of Balinese gamelan textures on a scene in Paul Bunyan; its presence in the volume reminds us that among his many accomplishments, Mitchell is an internationally recognized authority on the music of Thailand. A fascinating two-page sketch by Oliver Knussen traces the genesis of all the themes of Britten's Les Illuminations to the Fanfare that begins it. Colin Matthews's "Mahler and Self-Renewal" investigates the composer's constant interest in exploring new musical and emotional territories in each of his symphonies.
Britten's Death in Venice is the subject of two articles, one by Edward W. Said and the other by Christopher Palmer, the latter's, which previously appeared in The Britten Companion (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), is included here in place of the intended article. which the author was too ill to complete before his untimely death. Another essay, Erwin Stein's "Mahler the Factual" of 1930, is also a reprint, having been published in Hans Keller's translation in Orpheus in New Guises (1 (London: Rockliff, 1953); it is included here because of Mitchell's appreciations of Stein's role as an early supporter of Mahler's work.
Also in the volume are essays by Herta Blaukopf (in German, with an English abstract) exploring Mahler's use of language, by Gilbert Kaplan on Mahler on stamps, by Eveline Nikkels on Simon Vestdijk's writings about Mahler, and some personal thoughts on The Song of the Earth by Peter Sculthorpe. Edward Mendelson investigates W. H. Auden's earlier versions of his Hymn for St. Cecilia's Day, Peter du Sautoy remembers Mitchell as publisher, and librettist Myfanwy Piper offers a letter recalling the first night of The Turn of the Screw at Venice's La Fenice in 1954. Rosamund Strode contributes an informative article on technological changes in music copying during Britten's life. An excerpt describing the 1968 Edinburgh Festival from the diary of Mitchell's wife Kathleen, herself a most impressive educator, provides delightful insights into the personality of her husband, as well as of Britten and Petet Pears. The volume ends with a moving analysis of Britten by Arnold Whitetall, who concludes that
Britten, the uncertain Christian, walking
the knife-edge separating aesthetic
self-confidence from social self-doubt,
directed his generic allusions towards
those moments of purely human
self-understanding and illumination that
have their own transcendent expressive
force. (P. 297)
Throughout this entire collection of contributions by friends and colleagues, one is constantly aware of the deep respect and affection the authors hold for Mitchell. His broad knowledge, his enthusiasm, and his warm humanism are admired by all who know him. It is difficult to imagine that any persons seriously interested in Mahler or Britten--or Mitchell--would not want to add this anthology to their libraries.