Sir Michael Tippett
Born: January 2nd, 1905
Died: January 8th, 1998
Country of origin: United Kingdom
Conductor: Michael Rosewell
April 26th, 2014 | Norwich Theatre Royal - Norwich - United Kingdom
Conductor: Michael Rosewell
May 2nd, 2014 | Buxton Opera House - Buxton - United Kingdom
Tippett became musical director of Morley College in 1940 and remained there until 1951, giving it a new lease of musical life. The college became the focal point of the revival of Purcell’s music, and Tippett presented and recorded the first performance since Elizabethan times of Tallis’s 40-part motet; much new music featured, and upcoming artists like Alfred Deller, Peter Pears and the Amadeus Quartet, who were later to achieve worldwide fame. Meanwhile, in 1943, he was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for refusing, as a pacifist, to comply with conditions of exemption from active war service. He remained committed to the pacifist cause.
After leaving Morley College, Tippett devoted himself almost entirely to composition, earning a small secondary income from radio talks. He completed his First Symphony in 1945 and then embarked on his first opera, The Midsummer Marriage; like his next three operas, it was first produced by the Royal Opera House. They exerted a considerable influence upon his subsequent symphonies, sonatas, concertos and quartets.
Tippett’s international reputation blossomed from his sixties onwards, partly through a proliferation of recordings of his music. He was especially esteemed in America, and some of his most significant works (such as his Fourth Symphony and The Mask of Time) were US commissions.
Throughout his eighties, Tippett remained exceptionally active, composing, conducting and travelling worldwide. His fifth opera, New Year, commissioned jointly by Houston Grand Opera, Glyndebourne and the BBC, received its première in 1989, was toured all over the UK the following year and the BBC screened their own television production in 1991. Immediately after the opera came Byzantium, for soprano and orchestra (premièred in Chicago in 1991 and repeated the same year at the Proms) and a Fifth String Quartet (1992). His last orchestral work, The Rose Lake, was premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis as part of a two-week long festival celebrating his 90th birthday at the Barbican Centre, London. Subsequently, during a two-month tour of the USA and Canada, Tippett heard this greatly acclaimed work performed eleven times.
Also in 1995, following upon his autobiography, Those Twentieth Century Blues (1991), his definitive collection of essays, Tippett on Music was published, and he wrote an idiosyncratic contribution to the Purcell tercentenary celebrations, Caliban’s Song, for the BBC.
In November 1997 the Stockholm Concert Hall presented a 12-day Tippett Festival which included all his music except the stage works. Tippett travelled to Stockholm but was taken ill with pneumonia. Although he was able eventually to return to the UK, he never fully recovered and died peacefully at his home in South London on 8 January 1998.
Tippett received many honours and awards; he was made a CBE in 1959, was knighted in 1966, became a Companion of Honour in 1979 and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1983; he was a recipient of the gold medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society.
The Michael Tippett Musical Foundation was set up in 1979.