Sir Michael Tippett

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Tippett, Sir Michael (1905–98). Composer. Of Cornish stock, Tippett studied at the Royal College of Music, before further tuition in composition. Briefly a member of the Communist Party (1935), but increasingly disillusioned with politics, then the darkening European scene, his pacifist beliefs deepened (gaoled 1943, as a conscientious objector), though his humanitarianism found practical outlet as director of Morley College, successor to Holst. Although one of the most significant composers born in the 20th cent., Tippett was slower to mature than Britten, but developed a strong personal idiom based on complex rhythms and long lyrical phrases; to symphonies and chamber-music were added oratorio (A Child of our Time, 1941) and operas with his own libretti (The Midsummer Marriage, The Knot Garden), pervaded with themes of reconciliation. Despite his powers of imagination and inventiveness, public recognition came late—not until the 1960s in Britain (knighthood 1966), and the 1970s in America.

A. S. Hargreaves

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Sir Michael Tippett, 1905–98, English composer, b. London. Tippett studied at the Royal College of Music. During World War II he was briefly imprisoned as a conscientious objector. His strongly held socio-political views as well as his humanistic approach and mystical bent are often reflected in his work. His music is typically neoclassical in form, and blends the tonal, the modal, and the contemporary. Tippett utilized British folk, American jazz, and African elements in some of his works. He was knighted in 1966. His compositions include a concerto for double string orchestra (1939); the oratorio A Child of Our Time (1944); four symphonies (1945, 1958, 1973, 1977); five string quartets (1928, 1942, 1946, 1979, 1991); the symphonic The Rose Lake (1993); and the operas Midsummer Marriage (1955), King Priam (1962), The Knot Garden (1970), The Ice Break (1977), and New Year (1989).

See his autobiography, Those 20th Century Blues (1990), Tippett on Music (1995), and biography by M. Bowen; study by E. W. White (1979).