“If there is any point in an anniversary at all (victimization by over-exposure apart) it is a momentary pause: we stop at the traffic lights to reflect, for a moment, upon where we are going. Or rather, we know where we’re going, or think we know, but we think about what it means – perhaps even about what it means to have got that far.”
So wrote Hans Keller for a talk broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1974 to mark the Schoenberg centenary. Next month we celebrate Hans Keller’s own Centenary with a series of not-to-be-missed events in both London and Cambridge, so it seems reasonable not only to alert you, dear readers, to what is coming up, but also to stop at those traffic lights and reflect.
Which is exactly what Alison Garnham and I have been doing for the past three years as we have worked on our biography of Keller – Hans Keller, 1919-1985: a musician in dialogue with his times – which was, I am delighted to say, published by Routledge just before Christmas. Keller not only had an impact on his own times, but on a generation of those coming after him who in their turn have influenced the next generation. Indeed Keller himself was adamant that he wrote for the future and that the issues with which he dealt would retain their importance. What, he seems to ask throughout his writing, his talks and his teaching, is the purpose of music? Now, as his centenary approaches, seems an ideal time to explore further and so, to celebrate, the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust have arranged a series of events, starting with the launch of the biography on 4th March at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
The following Saturday, 9th March, offers a whole day at the Wigmore Hall looking at various aspects of Keller’s work. Four events will explore who he was, why he was/is important, present a workshop on one of his functional analyses with Levon Chilingirian and students from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and, before the evening string quartet concert by the Elias Quartet, screen Anton Weinberg’s moving programme The Keller Instinct made at the end of Keller’s life.
On Sunday 10th March for those of you near the Menuhin School in Stoke D’Abernon, do go along to the Menuhin Hall where there will be an exploration of Keller’s Functional Analysis and its influence. This is followed by a concert by pupils of string quartets by Haydn and Mozart (including the D minor quartet, K.421 which was the subject of Keller’s first functional analysis), both of whom Keller held in the highest regard.
Then on Monday 11th – Keller’s birthday – we are back at the Wigmore Hall for a very special lunchtime concert by the Belcea Quartet. Their programme will be Britten’s Third String Quartet, dedicated to Hans Keller, alongside Op.76 No.2 by Haydn (the ‘Fifths’ – about whose opening two notes Keller once devoted an entire interval talk showing how this was Haydn’s compliment to Mozart’s K.421), whose quartets both Britten and Keller revered. “Hans Keller knows more about the string quartet, and understands it better, than anybody alive,” thought Britten, whom Keller in turn hailed as “the greatest composer alive”.
As if that wasn’t enough, as a grand finale there will be a Hans Keller Centenary Day in Cambridge on Saturday 16th March. Your very own SW will begin the day at the University Library with an exploration of the riches of his extensive and eclectic archive (which has been the subject of many, many posts here at MusiCB3), whose contents range from functional analysis scores to football memorabilia . There will also be not one, not two, but three displays of selected items from the archive for you to see. Then, after a refreshing cup of tea, it’s across to the Faculty of Music just over the road for what will be a fascinating discussion, chaired by Professor Nicholas Marston, of the legacy Keller has left to the musical world. Finally a short walk across to Clare Hall for some supper, an opportunity to view the fabulous exhibition of Milein Cosman’s work [including several portraits of Keller] and a concert including a “Functional Analysis unwrapped” session with current and past staff and students of the Menuhin School and Levon Chilingirian.
All the details and how to book, plus a great deal more can be found on the dedicated Hans Keller 100 website. Oh yes, I nearly forgot… there will also be copies of the new Keller biography on sale at all these events…
See you there!