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BOOK REVIEWS

BBC Music in the Glock Era and After - A Memoir
Leo Black
Plumbago h/b £40, p/b £17.99

BBC Music in the Glock Era and After - A Memoir

Born in 1932, Leo Black gained a first class honours degree from Oxford in 1953, then took a composition degree (Oxford again), followed by a spell working in publishing with Universal Edition in Vienna. Between 1960 and 1988 Black was a producer for BBC Radio Music. He spent twelve years working for Sir William Glock, Controller, Radio Three, from 1959 to 1972.

Black is refreshingly immodest about his own height of brow. He confesses to being a 'dedicated, slightly unwordly figure that prospered within the BBC during the years when the Corporation was preparing to shed its skin.'

Black's whole life seems to have been spent in gifted company. Since 1954 he has been a good friend of the composer Hugh Wood. Indeed, his life and career placed him at the centre of British serious music, which makes for a fascinating book. Of Glock he says: "William himself was two musicians: the Schnabel pupil deeply in love with the Viennese classics and capable of uttering fascinating truths about them; ("In Mozart a scale is a melody; in Beethoven it's the way from one point to another"); and the missionary of modernity." Glock he describes as a pianist, a Schnabel-pupil, a music critic sacked from the Observer for writing once too often about Bartok, and notably head of the music summer school at Bryanston, later Dartington.

Black stresses that Glock was not an enemy of euphony, that he played the piano like an angel and, surprisingly, didn't like Schoenberg. The idea of a 'Glock regime' was an illusion, says Black. "William was blissfully unaware of many composers who imagined him as terribly down on them." Glock's ideal twentieth-century composer was Stravinsky, with Bartok a close second.'

Insights into key figures of the time are fascinating: Benjamin Britten acted surly until he could establish a pecking order; Peter Pears proved gracious to a fault; Solti was initially arrogant; Stravinsky and Yvonne Loriod insisting that they be paid before they performed, rather than after; newsreader Alvar Lidell had native Swedish and faultless German and French.

An informative, unbuttoned, account, warmly recommended.

John Robert Brown

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