Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Oliver, Paul (Hereford)

(b Nottingham, 25 May 1927). English writer on jazz and blues. He wrote articles and reviews for Jazz Journal (1952–c1960), Music Mirror (1954–9) and Jazz Monthly (1956–70), columns for Jazz Beat (in the 1960s) and Hi-fi News and Record Review (from the 1960s to 1980), and many disc notes. He became particularly well known for his writings on early jazz and the blues; he also gave broadcasts for the BBC from 1954. Oliver successfully brought the techniques of ethnomusicology to the study of blues; he made field visits to Africa and the American South, and challenged many of the assumptions of such earlier writers on jazz as Rudi Blesh by finding a stronger kinship with the blues and early jazz in the music of the savannas than in that of West Africa. He has also conducted important research into the influence of the songster and sermon traditions on race records. In addition to his work as a writer he has given lectures on jazz at the University of Cambridge, and his drawings of jazz and blues musicians have appeared in Jazz Journal and Radio Times. He is also well known as an architectural historian and critic.


Bessie Smith (London, 1959); repr. in Kings of Jazz, ed. S. Green (South Brunswick, NJ, 1978)

Blues Fell this Morning: the Meaning of the Blues (London, 1960, New York, 1961, repr. 1963 as The Meaning of the Blues; 2/1990)

Conversation with the Blues (London, 1965, 2/1997)

Screening the Blues (London, 1968/R; New York, 1970, as Aspects of the Blues Tradition)

The Story of the Blues (London, 1969/R, 2/1998)

Savannah Syncopators: African Retentions in the Blues (London and New York, 1970)

Blues off the Record: Thirty Years of Blues Commentary (New York and Tunbridge Wells, 1984/R) [collection of previously pubd items]

Songsters and Saints: Vocal Traditions on Race Records (Cambridge and elsewhere, 1984)

ed.: The Blackwell Guide to Blues Records (Oxford, 1989, 2/1991 as The Blackwell Guide to Recorded Blues, 3/1996)


T. Mazzolini: ‘A Conversation with Paul Oliver’, Living Blues, no.54 (1982), 24–30


Oliver, Stephen

(b Chester, 10 March 1950; d London, 29 April 1992). English composer. He studied with Kenneth Leighton and Robert Sherlaw Johnson at Oxford, where student productions of his first operas, notably The Duchess of Malfi (1971, later completely rewritten), soon brought him to wide attention. By the age of 24 he was able to subsist as a freelance composer, working mainly in the field of opera. Partly on the basis of Malfi's success, Oliver was commissioned by Colin Graham to write Tom Jones (1975) for his English Music Theatre Company, while his last major work was a full-length opera for ENO, Timon of Athens (1991). But the bulk of his operatic output consists of smaller-scale and more individual dramatic structures, ranging from brief monologues and ‘mini-operas’ (his own term) to works with young or amateur performers in mind, such as Three Instant Operas (1973), The Dong with the Luminous Nose (1976) and the children's operetta Jacko's Play (1979). He also wrote a musical, Blondel (to lyrics by Tim Rice), and incidental music for a number of stage and television productions. Oliver was much associated with the Musica nel Chiostro festival at Batignano, Italy, where a number of his stage works received their first performances and for which his last work, an adaptation of Mozart's L'oca del Cairo, was written. By comparison with his operas, Oliver's instrumental music is less substantial, but includes a Symphony (1976, rev. 1983), a Recorder Concerto for Michala Petri (1988), five Ricercare for various chamber forces (1973–86) and secular and liturgical choral works; he also translated opera libretti into English performing versions, notably Sallinen's The King Goes Forth to France and The Red Line. Stylistically, Oliver's music is wide-ranging. He was as deft at pastiche in his music for the non-operatic stage and television as he was confident in the more personal musical language of his instrumental works and larger operas, where colour and gesture prevail; but his greatest legacy, perhaps, is the fluency with which he wrote for the human voice, where, as with his often straightforward harmonic language, communication is the key.


(selective list)


for fuller list see GroveO

Ops (librettos by Oliver unless otherwise stated): All the Tea in China (1, W. Harvey), 1969; Slippery Souls (4 pts), 1969, rev. 1976, rev. 1988; A Phoenix too Frequent (1, C. Fry), 1970; The Duchess of Malfi (3, after J. Webster), 1971, rev. 1978; The Dissolute Punished (4 one-act ops), 1972; The Three Wise Monkeys (1, D. Pountney), 1972; The Donkey (1, Pountney), 1973; Three Instant Ops (children's ops), 1973; Past Tense (2 one-act ops), 1974; Bad Times (1), 1975; Tom Jones (3, after H. Fielding), 1976; The Great McPorridge Disaster (1), 1976; The Waiter's Revenge (1), 1976; Il giardino, 1977; A Stable Home (1), 1977; The Girl and the Unicorn (children's op, 3 pts), 1978; Jacko's Play (children's operetta, 1, after R. Smith) (London, 1980) [record to accompany book by Smith]; A Man of Feeling (1, after A. Schnitzler: Der Empfindsame), 1980; Euridice (3), 1981 [after J. Peri]; Sasha (3, after A.N. Ostrovsky: Artists and Admirers), 1983; Britannia Preserv'd (1, A.N. Wilson), 1984; The Ring (1, after TV serial: Coronation Street), 1984; La bella e la bestia (2, after Mme Le Prince de Beaumont), 1984; Exposition of a Picture (1), 1986; Waiting (1), 1987; Mario ed il mago (1, after T. Mann), 1988; Table's Meet (1), 1990; Timon of Athens (2, after W. Shakespeare), 1991; L'oca del Cairo (2), 1991 [after Mozart]

Other dramatic: Cadenus Observ'd (dramatic sketch, after J. Swift), Bar, 1975; Blondel (musical, 2, T. Rice), 1983; film scores, TV scores, incid music incl. Nicholas Nickleby (C. Dickens, dir. J. Caird and T. Nunn), 1980

other works

Orch: Luv, 1975; Sym., 1976, rev. 1983; O No, brass band, 1976, rev. 1985; Conc., rec, str, 1988

Choral: The Elexir (Ps li, J. Skelton, G. Herbert), 4vv, SATB, 1976; Mag and Nunc, SATB, 1976; A Dialogue Between Mary and Her Child (15th-century), S, Bar, SATB, 1979; The Child from the Sea (Oliver), Tr, SATB, orch, 1980; A String of Beads (Oliver), SATB, 2 ob, bn, str, 1980; Namings (old Scottish riddles, Oliver), SATB, brass qnt, timp, 1981; Trinity Mass, SSAATTBB, 1981; O fons amoris (motet, T. à Kempis), SSAATTBB, 1981; This is the Voice (W. Hilton), 3-pt chorus, org, 1984; Seven Words (Bible, W.W. How), SATB, str, 1985; Forth in thy Name (C. Wesley, Ps xc), S, B, SSAATTBB, 1985; Festal Mag and Nunc, SSAATTBB, org, 1985; Prometheus (after Aeschylus), SATB, orch, 1988; The Vessel, S, T, B, SATB, orch, 1990

Chbr and solo inst: Ricercare no.1, cl, vn, vc, pf, 1974; Kyoto, 2 org, 1977; Sonata, gui, 1979; Study, pf, 1979; Brass Qnt, 1980 [based on incid music Nicholas Nickleby]; The Lord of the Rings, pf, 1981 [arr. of incid music]; Ricercare no.2, 2 ob, 2 cl, 3 bn, 2 hn, 1981; Peter Pan: 3 Souvenir Pieces, pf, 1982 [arr. of incid music]; Ricercare no.3, gui, va, vc, 1983; Ricercare no.5, tpt, hn, trbn, tuba, 1986; Character Pieces, 1991 [after Mozart: La clemenza di Tito]

Other vocal: Overheard on a Saltmarsh (H. Munro), 6 male vv, 1972; The Dong with the Luminous Nose (E. Lear), nar, 5 str qt, 1976; The Key to the Zoo (M. Kington), nar, 2 ob, hn, hpd, 1980; Ricercare no.4 (Hadrian), Ct, 2 T, Bar, 1986


J. Glover: ‘Stephen Oliver’, MT, cxv (1974), 1042–4

P. Griffiths: ‘Stephen Oliver’, New Sounds, New Personalities (London, 1985), 140–47

M. Rye: ‘Oliver's Timon of Athens’, MT, cxxxii (1991), 228–30

Obituaries: J. Glover: The Independent (1 May 1992); A. Pollock: Opera, xliii (1992), 789–95; G. Vick, ibid., 787–8


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