Sir Michael Tippett - Birthday Of An English Maverick Composer
Januarty 2 is the birthday of the late English composer Sir Michael Tippett (1905 -1998), a freewheeling composer who was almost as much a philosopher as a composer. You should try his quirky, complex, but not unapproachable music. He came to prominence in England around the 1940s after a long period of study, reflection and his own rejection of his early works, taught at various small English colleges for many years and finally achieved international acclaim for his music.
His music fits into no recognizable mold ; he avoided trendy avant-garde experimentation but was never a hidebound conservative. He made use of his studies of renaissance English church music and polyphony, absorbed the influences of Jazz and Indonesian music and other influences , and found his own unique voice as a composer. Answers.com describes his music and philosophy thusly : " He took a passionate interest in the dilemmas of human society and the enduring strength of the human spirit." The rhthms are complex and there is elaborate polyphony. But Tippet never became a doctrinaire 12 tone serialist.
One of his most famous works is the oratorio"A Child Of Our Time", which was written not too long after a young Jew assasinated a Nazi official , which prompted savage attacks on other Jews. It makes use of among other things , African-American spirituals, and laments the inhumanity of man to mankind.
Tippett wrote four symphonies, a concerto for double string orchestra, a concerto for orchestra, a piano concerto and a triple concerto for violin, viola and cello among his orchestral works, five string quartes, several piano sonatas, and other choral and works such as "The Mask Of Time", which is a kind of overview of creation and human development, "The Vision of Saint Augustine", and five operas, among other things.
His operas have created a considerable amount of controversy; as they are rather quirky , and even mystifying, but still well worth hearing. They include the relatively straightforward "King Priam", which deals with the Trojan war and the conflict between the Greeks and Trojans, the mystical and allegorical "The Midsummer Marriage", "The Knot Garden", which deals with complex human relationships in a rather Jungian manner (the composer was very interested in Carl Jung's theories), "The Ice Break", story of Russian dissident family living in London, and the conflict between father and son, and his last opera "New Year". All but the last have been recorded, but may not be easy to find today.
Like Wagner, Tippett wrote his own librettos, and many find them full of obscure and even pretentious symbolism and psychobabble . But they they grow on you with repeated hearings.
Tippett's music has received a considerable number of recordings, and you can't go wrong with the recordings by the distinguished English conductor Sir Colin Davis, a friend of the composer who has championed his music for decades. Check arkivmusic.com for recordings.