A Child of Our Time
In the early 1930’s, as Michael Tippett was approaching maturity as a composer, he became aware of the social injustices caused by the Depression and widespread unemployment – especially in the North of England. He also sensed the likely consequences of the rise of Nazism in Central Europe and Stalinism in Russia. He felt that he must express his solidarity with the deprived and the downtrodden through his work as a composer. In 1938, the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris by a young Polish Jew, made desperate by the Nazi persecution of his race in general and his family in particular, led to the infamous ‘Kristallnacht’ of 9 November. Tippett shared in the public horror which this aroused, deciding that he must respond with a composition which, as it turned out, was to be his first major public statement as an artist, and one that is now performed all over the world.
A Child of Our Time is a traditional baroque oratorio with a famous twist: Tippett places five Spirituals at its heart, instead of Bach’s Lutheran chorales. He knew that audiences would recognise them and be able to sing them in the same way Bach’s congregation sang the chorales. Embodying texts and music of an inherently universal significance, they flow unselfconsciously out of the simplicity of Tippett’s structure and musical language, ensuring that the emotional power of this work never fails.
II "Man has measured the heavens'"
III "Is evil then good?"
IV "Now in each nation"
V "When shall the usurer's city cease?"
VI "I have no money for my bread"
VII "How can I cherish my man in such days?"
VIII "Steal away"
IX "A star rises in midwinter"
X "And a time came"
XI "Away with them!"
XII "Where they could, they fled from the terror"
XIII "We cannot have them in our Empire"
XIV "And the boy's mother wrote a letter saying"
XV "O my son!
XVI "Nobody knows the trouble I see, Lord"
XVII "The boy becomes desperate in his agony"
XVIII "They took a terrible vengeance"
XIX "Burn down their houses!"
XX "Men are ashamed of what was done"
XXI "Go down, Moses"
XXII "My dreams are all shattered"
XXIII "What have I done to you my son?"
XXIV "The dark forces rise like a flood" - XXV "Oh, by and by"
XXVI "The cold deepens" - XXVII "The soul of man is impassioned like a woman"
XXVIII "The words of wisdom are these"
XXIX "I would know my shadow and my light"
XXX "Deep river"