I N   P R E P A R A T I O N :


A [Concise] History of Irish Art Music (working title)

My project for 2022 to 2025 (max.): This is going to be a new history of Irish music – one that is focused on art music. It will finally supersede W.H.G. Flood's ominous A History of Irish Music (Dublin, 1905) after 130 (!) years. Starting in the Middle Ages and extending into our present time, I am aiming at an introduction in a digestable format of no more than 250 to 280 pages, with (hopefully) many illustrations.

Status as of April 2024: aproaching the end of chapter five (of eight).


Geoffrey Molyneux Palmer: James Joyce's Favourite Composer (working title)

I am gathering material for a biography of this Anglo-Irish composer (1882–1957), a composition student of Charles V. Stanford at the Royal College of Music, London, who settled in Ireland around 1910. He gained a measure of popularity in the early 1980s when his remarkable song settings of poems by James Joyce were rediscovered. However, there is more to his story than the connection to Joyce (who favoured his settings more than anyone else's) as he was also an ambitious opera composer. I found diaries by him for the years 1901–1907 providing a unique insight into his early career.


Bird of Time. The Music of Swan Hennessy

Mainz: Schott Music, 2019

576 pages, 142 music examples, 47 illustrations

ISBN (hardback): 978-3-95983-593-0

ISBN (paperback): 978-3-95983-594-7


This is the first ever biography of (Edward) Swan Hennessy (1866–1929), an Irish-American composer who came to live in Paris from around 1903. Born in Rockford, Illinois, he grew up in Chicago, studied at the conservatory of music in Stuttgart, Germany, lived in various places across Europe, finally settling in the most vibrant musical metropolis of the time. Here he became influenced by the French Impressionists and tried to adapt his work to his musical environment as best as he could – or, perhaps, insofar as this was allowable. From 1912 – and especially after World War I – he realised his true mission: as a member of a group of Celticist Breton composers, he built upon his Irish heritage and henceforth wrote in a uniquely ‘Celtic’ style, fusing characteristics of Irish traditional music with the art music of his time.



neue musikzeitung (nmz) vol. 69 no. 4 (April 2020), p. 12 (by Christoph Schlüren)

Journal of Music (Irish website), 13 May 2020 (by James Camien McGuiggan)

The Irish Times, 27 May 2020 (by Michael Dervan)

Fontes Artis Musicae vol. 67 no. 2 (April–June 2020) (by Orla Shannon)

Music & Letters, vol. 101 no. 3 (August 2020) (by Laura Watson)



O'Kelly - An Irish Musical Family in Nineteenth-Century France

Norderstedt: BoD, 2014, 493pp.

ISBN: 978-3-7357-2310-9


This book describes the careers and the music of four generations of Irish musicians in 19th and early 20th-century France. It is a fascinating story of hopes and disappointments, successes and failures, musical talent and tastes, as this family integrated more and more into French society. The book collects documentary evidence about all members of the family with numerous music examples and other illustrations. It is not only a study of the prototype minor composer in one of Europe's musical capitals, but also discusses issues of identity, change, aesthetics and Irishness in exile. It is a contribution to both French and Irish musical history.


The book can be ordered in a printed format or as an e-book. I personally recommend the printed copy, mainly because the more than a hundred illustrations (music examples etc) should come across better in this format.



– Blog of the American Musicological Society, September 2014; "All by myself".

–, November 2014: "Les O'Kelly, une dynastie musicale française venue d'Irlande".

Études irlandaises, 39.2 (2014), p. 187-192 (by Adrian Scahill); here.

Irish University Review, 45.2 (2015), p. 396–399 (by Laura Watson); here.

Revue de Musicologie 105 (2019), p. 200–201 (by Catherine Massip); here (but no full text available).



The Life and Music of Brian Boydell

edited by Gareth Cox, Axel Klein and Michael Taylor

Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2004, 132pp.

ISBN: 0-7165-2762-6


Brian Boydell (1917-2000) was one of the most significant Irish composers of the twentieth century. This book paints a picture of the man and musician, discusses the main characteristics of his compositional technique, consides his legacy as a historical musicologist, and catalogues his works and writings. With contributions by the editors as well as Harry White and Hazel Farrell.




Irish Musical Studies 7: Irish Music in the Twentieth Century

edited by Gareth Cox and Axel Klein

Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003, 208pp.

ISBN: 1-85182-647-5


This seventh volume in the Irish Musical Studies Series examines the development of art music in Ireland from different perspectives. The book includes historical assessments of genre in Irish music, analyses of individual composers and compositions, and essays in cultural history.




Irish Classical Recordings - A Discography of Irish Art Music

by Axel Klein

Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2001 (now: Santa Barbara, California: ABC-Clio), xviii+265pp

ISBN: 0-313-31742-9


Though the term Irish music typically evokes images of fiddles, flutes, and Riverdance, Ireland and its culture have also given rise to a wealth of classical music, including compositions ranging from string quartets via orchestral music to operas. In this important work, author Axel Klein provides much more than a mere discography: he documents and promotes a largely unknown aspect of Irish culture in a unique combination of discographical and biographical information. Featuring ninety-three recorded Irish composers and forty-three international composers influenced by Irish music, the volume offers the means for scholars and general readers alike to familiarize themselves with a subject to which most of the world, until now, has not been exposed. As most of the music described is currently available on compact disc, Klein's compilation serves as an invaluable resource guide for both academics and amateur enthusiasts.




Die Musik Irlands im 20. Jahrhundert

by Axel Klein (in German)

Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1996, 526pp.

ISBN: 3-487-10196-3


This was the first study, in any language, of the history of Irish art music in in the twentieth century. The book (a version of the author's Ph.D. dissertation of 1995) describes, in chronological order, representative works of different genres and places them in the context of Irish cultural history and international musical development. The study also included the biographies and aesthetics of 76 composers. Appendices include a bibliography, discography, and biographical index.