David Cairns C.B.E.

Potrait of David CairnsDavid Cairns was music critic of the Sunday Times from 1983 to 1992, having previously written for the Spectator, the Financial Times and the New Statesman. From 1967 to 1972 he worked as classical programme co-ordinator for Philips Records and was involved in some of the company's major recording projects, including operas by Mozart (Idomeneo, Le Nozze di Figaro), Berlioz (Benvenuto Cellini, The Trojans), and Tippett (The Midsummer Marriage).

He has always been actively involved in music making: he was co founder of the Chelsea Opera Group, in 1950, and sang solo roles under the group's first conductor, Colin Davis; he is conductor of the Thorington Players, an amateur orchestra which gives regular concerts for charity.

He has written several books, including a prize winner 2-volume biography of Berlioz. Volume 1: The Making of an Artist 1803- 1832, won the Royal Philharmonic Society's Music Award, the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year and the British Academy's Derek Allen Prize. It is available in hardback(Allen Lane, £25) and paperback (Penguin, £12.99). Volume 2: Servitude and Greatness 1832-1869, won the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction, the Whitbread Biography of the Year and the Royal Philharmonic Society's Music Award. It is available in hardback (Allen Lane, £25) and paperback (Penguin, £12.99).

Quotations from reviews of the two books. 

  • "One of the most insightful accounts we have of the making of a composer - and one of the most beautifully written...Indeed, in its investigation of character, its leisurely encompassing of a mass of social and historical detail, it reads less like a work of dry musicology than an early nineteenth-century French novel" Bryan Northcott, BBC Music magazine
  • "Utterly captivating...The drama of Berlioz's life makes him a rewarding subject for a biographer, and Mr. Cairns rises confidently to the challenge...the research is as deep as the best historian's, and the description of music convincing as the best musicologist's" Economist
  • "In David Cairns, Berlioz has found a biographer who shares his sense of scale. There is not a dull or redundant page in the whole book. Mr. Cairns has lived, breathed and dreamt Berlioz for more than twenty years. He has visited the places Berlioz visited and read the books Berlioz read" Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph 
  • "One of the finest of all biographies of a composer...the sweep of the narrative and its setting against a background of nineteenth-century French musical and political life is breathtaking. Above all, Berlioz himself emerges as a larger-that-life but intensely human personality" Michael Kennedy. Opera 
  • "Berlioz's fraught personal relationships are outlined and developed with magisterial authority and richness of detail...a magnificent achievement" Max Loppert, Guardian



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