Tippett, (Sir) Michael (Kemp)

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Tippett, (Sir) Michael (Kemp) (b London, 1905; d London, 1998). Eng. composer. Studied RCM 1923–8 (comp. with Charles Wood, cond. with Boult and Sargent). Became schoolmaster and cond. choral soc.; in 1930 studied counterpoint and fugue privately with R. O. Morris. Cond. S. London Orch. (of unemployed) at Morley Coll., 1933–40. Mus. dir., Morley Coll. 1940–51, dir. of Bath Fest. 1969–74. Imprisoned during 1943 for failure to comply with conditions of his conscientious exemption from military service. Autobiography Those Twentieth Century Blues (1991). CBE 1959. Knighted 1966. CH 1979. OM 1983.

 Tippett's life was his mus. A late developer, he did not achieve any kind of recognition until 1935 with his first str. qt. The work which made his name more familiar was the Conc. for Double Str. Orch. (1938–9). His oratorio A Child of Our Time, comp. 1939–41, was among the first of his works which reconcile personal vision with expression of ‘collective’ feeling. After 6 years of work he completed his first opera, The Midsummer Marriage, in 1952. Though not successful until its revival over 20 years later, this opera marks the culmination of Tippett's early lyrical style, a style that is complex in its madrigalian, contrapuntal, inter-weaving but which repays close study. He entered a tougher middle phase in 1962 with the opera King Priam and the 2nd pf. sonata, works of rhetoric and drama. This period culminated in the Concerto for Orchestra and the elaborate choral work The Vision of St Augustine. With the opera The Knot Garden (1969) Tippett entered a 3rd period in which he fused his 2 earlier periods, the ‘lyrical’ and the ‘disjunct’, as they have been called, and also extended his bounds by reference to popular and serious mus., past and present, e.g. ‘blues’, quotations from Monteverdi, and a tighter control of form as shown in the 3rd pf. sonata and the 4th sym. Yet, like all great composers, Tippett remained essentially himself, and the flowing lines of the Double Conc. are still discernible in King Priam, just as the exuberant, life-enhancing lyricism of The Midsummer Marriage spills over into the pf. conc., the Corelli Fantasia, the 4th sym., the Triple Conc., and the last of his operas, the ‘space-age’ New Year. But perhaps the most comprehensive synthesis of his work is the huge oratorio The Mask of Time, while in his 5th str. qt. he achieved an ethereal epigrammatic serenity. Some of his determinedly popular passages in recent years, as in the opera The Ice Break, may come to sound increasingly self-conscious, but this is part of the price to be paid for Tippett's open-eyed, even naive outlook on the world expressed in mus. of exceptional technical sophistication. Prin. works:OPERAS: The Midsummer Marriage (1946–52); King Priam (1958–61); The Knot Garden (1966–70); The Ice Break (1973–6); New Year (1986–8).ORCH.: syms.: No.1 (1944–5, f.p. 1945), No.2 (1956–7, f.p. 1958), No.3, sop., orch. (1970–2, f.p. 1972), No.4 (1976–7, f.p. 1977); conc. for double str. orch. (1938–9); Fantasia on a Theme of Handel, pf., orch. (1939–41); Little Music, str. (1946); Ritual Dances from The Midsummer Marriage (1947–52); Suite in D for the Birthday of Prince Charles (1948); Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli, str. (1953); Divertimento on Sellinger's Round (1953–4); pf. conc. (1953–5); Concerto for Orchestra (1962–3); conc. for str. trio and orch. (1978–9); Water Out of Sunlight (arr. for str. by M. Bowen of 4th str. qt.) (1988); New Year Suite (1989); The Rose Lake (1991–3).CHORAL: A Child of Our Time, SATB soloists, ch., orch. (1939–41); The Source and The Windhover, unacc. ch. (1942); Plebs angelica, unacc. double ch. (1943); The Weeping Babe, sop., ch. (1944); Dance, Clarion Air, 5 vv. (1952); 4 Songs from the British Isles, ch. (1956); Wadhurst, ch. (1958); Crown of the Year, women's ch., chamber ens. (1958); Music, vv., str., pf. or vv., pf. (1960); Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (1961); The Vision of St Augustine, bar., ch., orch. (1963–5); The Shires Suite, ch., orch. (1965–70); The Mask of Time, sop., mez., ten., bar., ch., orch. (1980–2).VOICE & ORCH./INSTR.: Boyhood's End, ten., pf. (1943); The Heart's Assurance, v., pf. (1950–1, vers. for v. and orch., arr. M. Bowen 1990); ‘Words for Music, Perhaps’, narr., ens. (1960); Songs for Achilles, ten., gui. (1961); Songs for Ariel, v., pf. (or v., hpd. or v., ens.) (1962); Songs for Dov, ten., small orch. (1970); Byzantium, sop., orch. (1989–90).CHAMBER MUSIC: str. qts.: No.1 (1934–5, rev. 1943), No.2 (1941–2), No.3 (1945–6), No.4 (1977–8), No.5 (1990–1); 4 Inventions, descant and treble recorders (1954); Sonata for 4 Horns (1955); In memoriam magistri, fl., cl., str. qt. (1971); The Blue Guitar, gui., (1982–3); Prelude: Autumn, ob., pf. (1991).PIANO: sonatas: No.1 (1936–7, rev. 1942, 1954), No.2 (1962), No.3 (1972–3), No.4 (1984).ORGAN: Preludio al Vespro di Monteverdi (1946).BRASS: fanfare No.1 (1943), No.2 (1953), No.3 (1953), No.4 (Wolf Trap) (1980), No.5 (1987); Festal Brass with Blues (1983); Suite in D for the Birthday of Prince Charles (arr. Brian Bowen, 1983); Triumph, concert band (1992).EDITIONS (in collab. with W. Bergmann): J. S. Bach: songs, Amore traditore, cantata for bass, If thou art near, Come sweet death, and Jesu, in thy love; Handel: Lucretia, cantata for sop.; Humfrey: A Hymne to God the Father; Purcell: Come ye sons of art, sop., 2 altos, bass, ch., orch., Ode for St Cecilia's Day (1692), sop., 2 altos, ten., bar., bass, ch., orch., Golden Sonata, 2 vns., basso continuo; and songs and duets.

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