Composer in interview: Robin Holloway

Hewett, I. (2003) Composer in interview: Robin Holloway. Tempo, 57 (226) pp. 11-20. ISSN 0040-2982 (print) 1478-2286 (online)


Robin Holloway this year turns 60, the age when most composers feel able to relax a little, and graciously accept the marks of status – honorary degrees, birthday profiles, retrospective festivals and so on. But there's no sign of Holloway easing into a settled status and self-image. It has to be said this is partly because the traditional marks of status are not much on offer. The birthday commissions and tributes are thin on the ground, which he tries to be philosophical about. But you get the sense that if they were on offer, he wouldn't feel comfortable with them. Provisionality self-doubt, a permanent restlessness are the hallmarks of the man. That's true of any real composer rather than a career-composer, but it's especially true of Robin Holloway. Everything about him refutes his age and seniority, as if to acknowledge it in any way – even in unconscious things like body-language – would be a sort of betrayal. He has exactly the same slender frame he had when he arrived in Cambridge as a fellow of Gonville and Caius College in 1969, the same lean, delicately chiselled features, always registering a pained sensitivity as if the world is too bright or loud.

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