Donald Mitchell (writer)

Last updated

Donald Charles Peter Mitchell CBE (6 February 1925 – 28 September 2017) was a British writer on music, particularly known for his books on Gustav Mahler and Benjamin Britten and for the book The Language of Modern Music, published in 1963.

Gustav Mahler late-Romantic Austrian composer

Gustav Mahler was an Austro-Bohemian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era. After 1945 his compositions were rediscovered by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers, a position he has sustained into the 21st century. In 2016, a BBC Music Magazine survey of 151 conductors ranked three of his symphonies in the top ten symphonies of all time.

Benjamin Britten English composer, conductor, and pianist

Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British classical music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. His best-known works include the opera Peter Grimes (1945), the War Requiem (1962) and the orchestral showpiece The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1945).


Mitchell was born in London, and educated at Brightlands Preparatory School and Dulwich College, London. In 1943 he registered as a conscientious objector and his war-time service was spent in the Non-Combatant Corps. After the war, he taught at Oakfield Preparatory School, London and in 1947 founded and edited the journal Music Survey ; several issues appeared before he was joined in 1949 by Hans Keller and the journal was re-launched in the Music Survey's so-called 'New Series' (1949–52), whose uncompromising critical standards and pugnaciously pro-Britten and pro-Schoenberg stance brought it renown and notoriety in equal measure. Mitchell studied at Durham University 1949-50. [1] In the 1950s he was a regular contributor to the journals Musical Times and Musical Opinion. In 1958 he became editor of Music Books at Faber and Faber and in the same year was appointed Editor of Boosey & Hawkes's music journal Tempo , until 1962. From 1963 to 1964 he was a special music adviser at Boosey & Hawkes with particular responsibility for contemporary music and the acquisition of contemporary composers. He was responsible for Peter Maxwell Davies and Nicholas Maw joining the publisher's list. In 1965, with the encouragement of Benjamin Britten he founded the music-publishing firm of Faber Music, and was its first Managing Director (vice-chairman, 1976, chairman, 1977, president, 1988–95). In 1972 he became the first Professor of Music at Sussex University (until 1976). Following the death of Benjamin Britten, Mitchell became a senior trustee of the Britten-Pears Foundation; in 1986 he became the Foundation's director and chairman of the Britten Estate Ltd. From 1989 to 1992 he was chairman of the Performing Right Society. He was appointed a CBE in the 2000 New Year Honours, and died on 28 September 2017.

Dulwich College independent school for boys in Dulwich, southeast London, England

Dulwich College is a 2–19 independent, boarding school for boys in Dulwich, London, England. It was founded in 1619 by Edward Alleyn, an Elizabethan actor, with the original purpose of educating 12 poor scholars as the foundation of 'God's Gift'. Admission by examination is mainly into years 3, 7, 9, and 12 to the Junior, Lower, Middle and Upper Schools into which the college is divided. It is a member of both the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and the Eton Group.

A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion.

The Non-Combatant Corps (NCC) was a corps of the British Army composed of conscientious objectors as privates, with NCOs and officers seconded from other corps or regiments. Its members fulfilled various non-combatant roles in the army during the First World War, the Second World War and the period of conscription after the Second World War.

Mahler and Britten

Mitchell's two major written projects have been a four-volume exploration of the music of Gustav Mahler (Faber), and as Editor-in-Chief of six volume edition of the letters of Benjamin Britten (Faber and Boydell Press). Although Mitchell did not work on the fifth and final volumes he appears extensively in them as a Britten correspondent.

By his own admission, Mitchell's work on Mahler has not been principally as a work of biography (he cites Henry-Louis de La Grange's four-volume work as the standard), but rather a series of extended essays, often personal in nature. [2] Across the four volumes Mitchell also presents analyses of Mahler's work, grouped loosely into early works (vol. 1), Wunderhorn works (vol. 2) and later works (vols. 3 and 4).

Henry-Louis de La Grange French musicologist

Henry-Louis de La Grange was a French musicologist and biographer of Gustav Mahler.

Selected writings

Milein Cosman British artist

Emilie Cosman, known as Milein Cosman, was a German-born artist based in England. She is best known for her drawings and prints of leading cultural figures, dancers and musicians in action, such as Francis Bacon, Mikhail Baryshnikov, T. S. Eliot and Igor Stravinsky.

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

Related Research Articles

Symphony No. 8 (Mahler) symphony by Gustav Mahler

The Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major by Gustav Mahler is one of the largest-scale choral works in the classical concert repertoire. Because it requires huge instrumental and vocal forces it is frequently called the "Symphony of a Thousand", although the work is normally presented with far fewer than a thousand performers and the composer did not sanction that name. The work was composed in a single inspired burst, at Maiernigg in southern Austria in the summer of 1906. The last of Mahler's works that was premiered in his lifetime, the symphony was a critical and popular success when he conducted the Munich Philharmonic in its first performance, in Munich, on 12 September 1910.

Frank Bridge English composer and violist

Frank Bridge was an English composer, violist and conductor.

Imogen Holst 20th-century English composer, arranger, conductor, teacher and festival administrator

Imogen Clare Holst was a British composer, arranger, conductor, teacher, musicologist, and festival administrator. The only child of the composer Gustav Holst, she is particularly known for her educational work at Dartington Hall in the 1940s, and for her 20 years as joint artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival. In addition to composing music, she wrote composer biographies, much educational material, and several books on the life and works of her father.

<i>Albert Herring</i> opera by Benjamin Britten

Albert Herring, Op. 39, is a chamber opera in three acts by Benjamin Britten.

<i>Noyes Fludde</i> opera

Noye's Fludde is a one-act opera by the British composer Benjamin Britten, intended primarily for amateur performers, particularly children. First performed on 18 June 1958 at that year's Aldeburgh Festival, it is based on the 15th-century Chester "mystery" or "miracle" play which recounts the Old Testament story of Noah's Ark. Britten specified that the opera should be staged in churches or large halls, not in a theatre.

Boosey & Hawkes is a British music publisher purported to be the largest specialist classical music publisher in the world. Until 2003, it was also a major manufacturer of brass, string and woodwind musical instruments.

Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20, for orchestra is a symphony written by Benjamin Britten in 1940 at the age of 26. It was one of several works commissioned from different composers by the Japanese government to mark the 紀元二千六百年記念行事 of the founding of the Emperor of Japan. The Japanese government rejected the Sinfonia for its use of Latin titles from the Catholic Requiem for its three movements and for its somber overall character, but it was received positively at its world premiere in New York under John Barbirolli. A performance in Boston under Serge Koussevitzky led to the commission of the opera Peter Grimes from the Koussevitzky Music Foundations.

<i>Hymn to St Cecilia</i>

Hymn to St Cecilia, Op. 27 is a choral piece by Benjamin Britten (1913–1976), a setting of a poem by W. H. Auden written between 1940 and 1942. Auden's original title was "Three Songs for St. Cecilia's Day", and he later published the poem as "Anthem for St. Cecilia’s Day ".

Diversions for Piano Left Hand and Orchestra, Op. 21, is a concertante music composition by Benjamin Britten.

<i>The Ascent of F6</i>

The Ascent of F6: A Tragedy in Two Acts, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, was the second and most successful play in the Auden-Isherwood collaboration, first published in 1936. It was a major contribution to English poetic drama in the 1930s. It has been seen as a parable about will, leadership and the nature of power: matters of increasing concern in Europe as that decade progressed.

Steuart Wilson English operatic tenor

Sir James Steuart Wilson was an English singer, known for tenor roles in oratorios and concerts in the first half of the 20th century. After the Second World War he was an administrator for several organisations including the Arts Council of Great Britain, the BBC and the Royal Opera House.

The Prince of the Pagodas is a ballet created for The Royal Ballet in 1957, by choreographer John Cranko, with music commissioned from Benjamin Britten. The ballet was later revived in a new production by Kenneth MacMillan in 1989, achieving widespread acclaim for Darcey Bussell's premiere in a principal role. The world premiere of Cranko's original production took place on 1 January 1957 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, conducted by the composer. MacMillan's production premiering at the same venue on 7 December 1989. A recording of a slightly cut version of the score was produced with Britten conducting the orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

Benjamin Britten's Piano Concerto, Op. 13, is the composer's sole piano concerto.

This is a summary of 1955 in music of all genres in the United Kingdom.

The Cello Sonata, Op. 65, is a work by the English composer Benjamin Britten. It was premiered in July 1961 at the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk. The work is in five movements:

  1. Dialogo. Allegro
  2. Scherzo-Pizzicato. Allegretto
  3. Elegia. Lento
  4. Marcia. Energico
  5. Moto perpetuo. Presto
Sophie Wyss Swiss soprano

Sophie Adele Wyss was a Swiss soprano who made her career as a concert singer and broadcaster in the UK. She was noted for her performances of French works, many of them new to Britain, for giving the world premieres of Benjamin Britten's orchestral song cycles Our Hunting Fathers (1936) and Les Illuminations (1940), and for encouraging other composers to set English and French texts. Among those who wrote for her were Lennox Berkeley, Arnold Cooke, Roberto Gerhard, Elizabeth Maconchy, Peter Racine Fricker, Alan Rawsthorne and Mátyás Seiber.

A Charm of Lullabies, Op.41 is a song cycle for mezzo-soprano with piano accompaniment by Benjamin Britten. It consists of five songs composed on poems by William Blake, Robert Burns, Robert Greene, Thomas Randolph and John Phillip. It was written in 1947 for Nancy Evans, who gave the first performance with Felix de Nobel (piano) at a festival in The Hague 3 January 1948. The score was first published in 1949 by Boosey and Hawkes in London.

Benjamin Britten's Sinfonietta was composed in 1932, while he was a student at the Royal College of Music, aged 18. It was first performed in 1933. It was published as his Op. 1 and dedicated to his teacher Frank Bridge.


  1. Reed (1995), p. xii.
  2. Mitchell, Donald Gustav Mahler, Vol. 3: Songs and Symphonies of Life and Death: Interpretations and Annotations. Faber, 1985
Google Books service from Google

Google Books is a service from Google Inc. that searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical character recognition (OCR), and stored in its digital database. Books are provided either by publishers and authors, through the Google Books Partner Program, or by Google's library partners, through the Library Project. Additionally, Google has partnered with a number of magazine publishers to digitize their archives.