1st Edition

Hans Keller 1919 - 1985 A musician in dialogue with his times

By Alison Garnham, Susi Woodhouse Copyright 2019
    436 Pages 41 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    436 Pages 41 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Hans Keller 1919–1985: A musician in dialogue with his times is the first full biography of Hans Keller and the first appearance in print of many of his letters. Eight substantial chapters, integrating original documents with their historical context, show the development of Keller’s ideas in response to the people and events that provoked them.

    A musician of penetrating insight, Keller was also an exceptional writer and broadcaster, whose remarkable mind dominated British musical life for forty years after the Second World War. It was a vital time for music in Britain, fuelled by unprecedented public investment in the arts and education and the rapid development of recording and broadcasting. Keller was at the centre of all that was happening and his far-sighted analysis of the period is deeply resonant today.

    Illustrated throughout by extracts from Keller’s writings, diaries and correspondence with musicians including Arnold Schoenberg, Benjamin Britten and Yehudi Menuhin, this book vividly conveys the depth of his thought and the excitement of the times. Published for the centenary of Keller’s birth, it is an illuminating celebration of his life and works for all those interested in the music and history of post-war Britain.



    Key to Source Abbreviations


    1 Out of Austria

    2 Critics and Musicologists

    3 Music Survey

    4 Dodecaphoneys

    5 Functional Analysis

    6 The BBC

    7 The Time of My Life

    8 Beyond Broadcasting



    Alison Garnham was the initial archivist of the Hans Keller Archive when it was first established at Cambridge University Library in 1996. She is the author of Hans Keller and the BBC (2003) and Hans Keller and Internment (2011).

    Susi Woodhouse is the current archivist of the Hans Keller Archive at Cambridge. She also works with the online Concert Programmes Project and the London Symphony Orchestra photograph archive.

    "This is a detailed and revealing biography, rich in context and background, of one of the great musical thinkers, writers and broadcasters of our time. It casts a penetrating light on the post-war cultural scene and the passionate internal battles of music broadcasting on the BBC. Keller's many enthusiasms, from Schoenberg and Mendelssohn to Gershwin and the Beatles, shine through his fiercely communicative prose. And all are illuminated by the moving personal integrity of a man who, facing extinction by the Nazis in 1938, swore that if he survived "I'll never again be in a bad mood, whatever the circumstances of my life or death". Alison Garnham and Susi Woodhouse have written a vital chapter in the musical history of our times."

    Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director of The Barbican Centre, London, UK.

    "[Keller's] mind worked best in the heat of immediate controversy. He loved a sparring partner and his brightest interventions are sparks that fly from the friction of disagreement. Grasping this, Garnham and Woodhouse have framed Keller as provocateur at the centre of a web of complex musicological issues, the ever energising protagonist in a story of rapid and momentous cultural change. Quoting extensively from letters, essays and reviews, lectures, drafts and memoranda, they hand over the writing of the book to Keller himself, directing him from the sidelines, weaving his ebullient script into a tight narrative line. Here Keller is back in his element."  

    ̶Nicholas Spice, London Review of Books

    "There are countless reasons why this volume should find its place in the hands of all twentieth-century music scholars …truly scintillating reading. …Garnham and Woodhouse’s clarity and elegant weaving together of narrative and primary source material represents an object lesson in contemporary scholarship. … Keller’s cultural commentary — engaging in the issues of ‘what music is’ — in a world when the experience of music had been utterly changed by the technological revolution of mass recording and broadcasting has never been more relevant."

    ̶Justin Vickers, Brio

    "Hans Keller was perhaps the most influential music critic on British soil in the 20th century. Never known for his diplomacy, he communicated widely and passionately in provocative and to-the-point prose. It is fitting that in this, the ‘first full biography,’ authors Alison Garnham and Susi Woodhouse capture Keller through his own arresting style, quoting extensively from primary source material. … This richness of primary source materials is undoubtedly what will draw researchers to the book: they will be tempted to use it almost as a one-stop-shop to Keller’s vast archive. Garnham and Woodhouse know Keller’s papers and archive inside out, boast an impressive number of publications on Keller’s life and work, and their sheer knowledge shows."

    ̶Florian Scheding, North American British Music Studies Association Review

    "Ms Garnham and Ms Woodhouse have done a fully remarkable and admirable job. No one who did not know Hans could possibly finish reading this book without grasping what was so significant in his life and writings … This is a worthy book of a noble subject."

    Robert Matthew-Walker, Musical Opinion Quarterly

    "[this is] a documentary life rather than a full life-and-works study (a massive task), though the contexts, taken together, provide an invaluable account of publishing, broadcasting, and music-making in Britain in the first four decades after the war…The authors concede that there are ‘many different paths’ through the wealth of the Keller Nachlass, and indeed there are. But if this drawing together and enriching of so many strands that have hitherto been handled separately is ‘a start’, then it is a formidable one. Routledge have produced a challenging text with exemplary care."

    Christopher Wintle, Music and Letters