Wulff: Britten’s Young Apollo by Tony Scotland - review by David Nice

David Nice

He Changed His Tune

Wulff: Britten’s Young Apollo


Shelf Lives 176pp £24

Karl Hermann Wolfgang Scherchen, fondly known as ‘Wulff’, inspired two of Britten’s early masterpieces – Young Apollo, for piano and strings, and ‘Antique’, which saluted the ‘gracious son of Pan’ and was one of Britten’s settings of Rimbaud’s verse that make up the song cycle Les Illuminations. These are indelible monuments to a young male muse.

At the centre of Tony Scotland’s vivid short book, indeed detective story, is the passionate love affair between the 24-year-old composer and his 18-year-old admirer. The fact that Wulff, who took the name John Woolford as a British soldier in the Second World War, denied the physical side of the relationship until his dying day tells us much about the attitudes of his generation.

Scotland, however, keeps this crucial aspect of the tale under wraps for much of his beautifully presented book. At first, slipping back in time, he paints a vivid picture of the Europe of Wulff’s father, the great German conductor Hermann Scherchen, who was passionately engaged in music and

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