Oliver Gilmour

The great unknown

Who was Carlos Kleiber, and why has he been voted the best conductor of all time? Carlos Kleiber — the name evokes both Hispanic and German spheres — cancelled performances, never gave interviews, claimed he only conducted when the fridge was empty, and told Placido Domingo he’d prefer to devote his time to drinking wine

An aura of sanctity

According to Arturo Toscanini, ‘any asino can conduct, but to make music is difficile’. According to Arturo Toscanini, ‘any asino can conduct, but to make music is difficile’. The technical side of conducting did not appeal to Carlo Maria Giulini, the subject of Thomas Saler’s highly illuminating biography. He was an immensely spiritual man, ‘an

Wit and brio

Thomas Beecham: An Obsession with Music, by John Lucas Damn awful thing, what! [The Ring] — Barbarian load of Nazi thugs, aren’t they? ‘No one can honestly maintain that the lives of musicians make exciting reading’, claimed Beecham in his autobiography, A Mingled Chime. If you were to have a wager, you would put it

A career in the West

Was Sergey Prokofiev a better diarist than a composer? We embark on this new volume with the 23-year-old enfant terrible living in St Petersburg. We are there during the ten days that shook the world, and although initially unshaken, Prokofiev escaped the turmoil of revolution and in 1918 headed for San Francisco. The following years

The call of the wild

Jean Sibelius was an epic figure: an orignal who never strove for originality. Not for him the frippery of a Stravinsky (‘with his stillborn affectations’) or the artificial contrivances of Arnold Schönberg. Sibelius was his own man, and a deeply human one, moved and moulded by the harsh Finnish landscape. This gave his music a

The unromantic approach

John Worthen, a D.H. Lawrence specialist, approaches Robert Schumann’s tormented life without any apparent musical or medical expertise. His aim is ambitious: to prove that Schumann was not the quintessential Romantic figure of folklore and that he died of tertiary syphilis. He attempts to argue that Schumann was not manic-depressive, schizophrenic, unbalanced or even unstable.

Ten men went to mow

Sitting at Stamford Bridge at the weekend, Chelsea trailing Bolton 0-1, I reflected on the nature of 11 brilliant players and their manager. After Mourinho’s half-time talk, Chelsea scored four goals in 10 minutes. There are inspiring and uninspiring gaffers. If he were a conductor, José Mourinho would be a virtuoso, but what does this