Oliver has published widely, and on twentieth-century writers and composers particularly. His books include biographies of the British composer Michael Tippett, and (forthcoming) of Noël Coward; Portrait of a Wartime Friendship, a short study of Tippett's friendship with Benjamin Britten; and an edition of director John Barton's ten-play Greek epic Tantalus.
Michael Tippett: The Biography was published in April 2019. It was adapted for BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week (read by the author, with Derek Jacobi as Tippett), and received wide critical acclaim: Gramophone called it "nothing short of miraculous... the most detailed and intimate study of any great British composer to date". A leading authority on Tippett, Oliver has contributed articles on his life and work to several essay collections, and to world-leading scholarly journals such as Musical Quarterly and Tempo. His research uncovered extensive collections of letters and manuscripts and was covered as a news story by the Sunday Telegraph; he assisted in the preparation, publication, and performance of Tippett's withdrawn symphony, in B-flat, following his discovery and identification of the manuscript score in the composer's hand.
Oliver is currently writing a biography, the first in a quarter-century, of Noël Coward, with the full cooperation of the Coward estate and unrestricted access to the Noël Coward Archive.
Other work includes essays and reviews in publications such as the Guardian, Spectator, Literary Review, The Art Newspaper, BBC Music Magazine, Gramophone and the BBC Proms Guide, and programme notes for performances by (among others) the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, English Touring Opera, and for concerts at the Wigmore Hall and BBC Proms. His liner notes have been featured on recent releases by the Wigmore Live label and by Hyperion, and include complete cycles of Tippett's string quartets and symphonies.
COMPLETE LIST OF PUBLICATIONS
- The Lives of Noël Coward [working title]
(Weidenfeld and Nicolson, forthcoming)
- Jeoffry the Poet's Cat: A Biography
(The History Press, 3 November 2020)
- Michael Tippett: The Biography (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2019)
- Tippett & Britten: Portrait of a Wartime Friendship (Britten-Pears Foundation, 2019)
- John Barton, Tantalus (editor), Oberon Books, 2014
Articles / Book Chapters
- 'Design for Living: David Myerscough Jones', Random Spectacular at The Fry Art Gallery (Norwich: St Jude's, 2020)
- 'Tippett, Eliot, and Madame Sosostris', in The Edinburgh Companion to Literature and Music, ed. Delia da Sousa (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019)
- "Shadow and light in war and peace:
Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time." British Library, Discovering Music, 2019
- "Behind the Book: Michael Tippett: The Biography", London Library Magazine, 45 (Autumn 2019)
"Michael Tippett at Morley College", Morley Community Magazine, September 2019
- "National Traitor to National Treasure",
BBC Music Magazine, April 2019, 52-55
- "Setting Shakespeare's Music – and the music of Shakespeare's settings", British Library, Discovering Literature, 2019
- 'Sculpting with Sound: Priaulx Rainier',
The Strad, 127 (May 2016), 41-44
- 'Darkness Declares the Light: Tippett's String Quartets',
The Strad, 127 (March 2016), 38-42
- 'Tippett's The Ice Break: time to take it out of cold storage',
Guardian, 3 April 2015
- 'Michael Tippett and Morley College',
in Morley: 125th Anniversary Portrait, ed. Janet Sacks
(London: Third Millennium Publishing, 2015)
- 'An unknown bird in the early Faber nest', co-written with Jim McCue, Notes and Queries, 61 (1), March 2014
- 'The Clarion Airs of Michael Tippett and Christopher Fry',
Musical Quarterly, 97 (2014), 616-660.
- 'Michael Tippett' - BBC Proms Guide 2013
(London: BBC Books), pp. 44-47.
- 'Tippett and Eliot', Tempo, 67 (266), October 2013, 28-53
- 'Tippett's Time Has Come' - Gramophone, July 2013, 41
- 'The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit - review'
Spectator, October 2019
- "The Letters of Cole Porter - review"
Literary Review, October 2019
- "Cambridge Companion to Michael Tippett – review",
Tempo 67 (265), July 2013, 88-92
- 'Vermeer and Music, National Gallery – review"
The Art Newspaper (July 2013)
- "Art and Music in Venice – review",
The Art Newspaper (June 2014)
- 'Make a Joyful Noise: Renaissance Art and Music – review",
The Art Newspaper (July 2015)
- The Orchestral Music of Michael Tippett – review",
Cercles, 34 (July 2014).
CD Liner Notes:
- Tippett, Complete String Quartets (Wigmore Live CD)
- Tippett, Complete Symphonies (Hyperion)
Introductions to scores:
- Tippett, Symphony in B flat (Schott music, 2018)
- Tippett, arr. Manning, Time Past, Time Present, Time Future (Schott music, 2015)
Notes for works by, inter alia, Michael Tippett, Judith Weir, Benjamin Britten, Roxana Panufnik, Thea Musgrave, Priaulx Rainier,
for performances by BBC Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, English Touring Opera, at venues such as Wigmore Hall, Royal Opera House, Barbican Centre, Royal Festival Hall, Aldeburgh Festival