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Sir Michael Tippett

Sir Michael Tippett

Country of origin: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Birthday: January 2, 1905
Date of death: January 8, 1998

Upcoming Performances

Five Spirituals
June 15, 2024 | London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , St Giles Cripplegate
New Year
Conductor: Alpesh Chauhan
Orchestra: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
July 7, 2024 | Birmingham (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Birmingham Opera Company

About Sir Michael Tippett

‘What attracts one most in his music is the vibrancy and exuberance it gives off, the feeling it communicates of a richness of temperament and of humanity’. American Academy of Arts and Letters   Sir Michael Tippett was born in London in 1905 and spent his childhood in Suffolk, making little contact with music until his teens. Thereafter he studied at the Royal College of Music and from 1928 lived in Oxted, Surrey, teaching French in a preparatory school and conducting a concert and operatic society, which enabled him to spend long periods at composition. In April 1930 an Oxted concert featured his main works to date; but these he afterwards withdrew. He then went for further lessons with R. O. Morris. These proved formative: he developed special skills in counterpoint which propelled him towards the first works of his creative maturity, his String Quartet No. 1 (1935; revised 1944) and Piano Sonata No. 1 (1936-7).

Both during his student days and after, Tippett responded deeply to world events - the First World War, the Depression and mass unemployment. He became involved in political radicalism, organised the South London Orchestra of Unemployed Musicians and directed two choirs sponsored by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society. At the same time his aesthetic ideas had crystallised in the course of several informal encounters with T. S. Eliot. The outcome of all this was the oratorio A Child of Our Time (1939-41), an impassioned protest against persecution and tyranny and now his most widely performed composition.

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 Symphony No. 1 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. The Foundation's purpose is to make donations in the field of music and in its first twenty years more than 500 grants were given to organisations across the United Kingdom to support young musicians and composers, new music and music education initiatives.

In 2019, acclaimed writer and broadcaster Oliver Soden released a comprehensive and illuminating portrait of composer Michael Tippett through his groundbreaking biography, "Michael Tippett: The Biography," shedding new light on the life and musical legacy of Tippett.

In 2023, the BBC presented " The Shadow and the Light," a captivating documentary by John Bridcut that brilliantly captures the vibrant life of Michael Tippett. This in-depth film showcases a wide array of Tippett's musical works, beautifully performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Bearsden Choir, filmed in the enchanting city of Glasgow.

Worklist

Chronology

1905
Michael Kemp Tippett born on 2 January in Pimlico, London; Later moves to Suffolk
1909
Begins piano lessons
1914-1920
Educated in Dorset, Edinburgh and Lincolnshire
1923-1928
Enters the Royal College of Music to study composition with Charles Wood then CH Kitson, piano with Aubin Raymar and conducting with Malcolm Sargent then Adrian Boult
1929
Moves to Oxted, Surrey.

Teaches French and conducts local amateur groups.

Meets Evelyn Maude, an amateur cellist who was to become a lifelong friend and confidante.
1930
Returns to the RCM for further studies in composition with R.O. Morris

Has private tuition in orchestration from Gordon Jacob

Begins friendship with David Ayerst, who introduces him to left-wing politics
1932
Meets WH Auden and TS Elliot
1933
Joins teaching staff at Morley College, London
1935
Premiere of "String Quartet No. 1" in London
1938
Premiere of "Fantasy Sonata" (later Piano Sonata No. 1) in London
1939
Signs with Schott
1940
Becomes Director of Music at Morley College, London

Premiere of "Concerto for Double String Orchestra"
1942
Meets Benjamin Britten
1943

Premiere of "String Quartet No. 2 "

1944
premiere of "Child of Our Time" in London
1945

Premiere of "Symphony No 1"

1949-61
Sits on the Music Advisory Committee of the British Council
1951

Resigns from Morley College

1953
Premiere of "Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli"
1955
Premiere of "The Midsummer Marriage at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
1958
Premiere of "Symphony No. 2"

Publishes Moving into Aquarius, a collection of talks and essays
1959
Made a CBE
1962
Premiere of "King Priam" at Coventry Cathedral
1965

Begins long association with the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra

1966
Premiere of "The Vision of St. Augustine"

Receives knighthood
1969-1974
Artistic director of the Bath Festival
1972
Premiere of "Symphony No. 3" in London (22 June)
1973
Elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
1976
Awarded gold medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society
1977
Premiere of "The Ice Break" and "Symphony No.4"
1978

Elected a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

1979
Premiere of "String Quartet No. 4"

Becomes a Companion of Honour

Sets up the Michael Tippett Musical Foundation, a charitable trust
1983
Awarded Order of Merit
1984

Premiere of "The Mask of Times"

1985
Premiere of "Piano Sonata No. 4"
1989
Premiere of "New Year" in Houston
1991
Premiere of "Byzantium"

Publishes his autobiography, Those Twentieth Century Blues
1995
Premiere of "The Rose Lake"
1998
Dies on 8 January

Products

Performances

Set Descending Direction
  • Five Spirituals
    June 15, 2024 | London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , St Giles Cripplegate
  • New Year
    Conductor: Alpesh Chauhan
    Orchestra: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
    July 7, 2024 | Birmingham (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Birmingham Opera Company
  • Songs for Ariel
    July 11, 2024 | London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Wigmore Hall
  • String Quartet No. 2
    July 18, 2024 | Cambridge (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Jesus College Chapel
  • Plebs angelica
    Three Choirs Festival 2024
    Conductor: George Parris
    July 27, 2024 | Worcester (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , College Hall
  • String Quartet No. 2
    Three Choirs Festival 2024
    July 29, 2024 | Worcester (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , St Martin’s Church
  • Ritual Dances
    BBC Proms 2024
    Conductor: Martyn Brabbins
    Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra
    August 30, 2024 | London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Royal Albert Hall
  • Songs for Ariel
    September 27, 2024 | London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Queen Elizabeth Hall, Foyer, Southbank Centre
    Performance of Come unto These Yellow Sands only.
  • A Child of Our Time
    Orchestra: The Glyndebourne Sinfonia
    October 29, 2024 | Lewes, East Sussex (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Glyndebourne
  • A Child of Our Time
    Orchestra: The Glyndebourne Sinfonia
    November 1, 2024 | Lewes, East Sussex (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Glyndebourne
  • A Child of Our Time
    Conductor: Paul Johannes Roßmann
    Orchestra: Berliner Oratorientruppe
    November 9, 2024 | Berlin (Germany) , N.N.
  • Sonata No. 2
    November 10, 2024 | London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , St Mary le Strand
  • A Child of Our Time
    Conductor: Naomi Butcher
    Orchestra: Tonbridge Philharmonic Society
    November 23, 2024 | Tonbridge (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Chapel of St Augustine Tonbridge School
  • A Child of Our Time
    Conductor: Dinis Sousa
    Orchestra: Royal Northern Sinfonia
    November 24, 2024 | Gateshead (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , The Glasshouse International Centre for Music
  • Songs for Ariel
    December 29, 2024 | London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Wigmore Hall
  • Ritual Dances
    Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle
    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
    January 12, 2025 | London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Barbican Hall
  • Ritual Dances
    Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle
    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
    January 14, 2025 | Paris (France) , Great Pierre Boulez Hall, Philharmonie
  • Concerto for Double String Orchestra
    Conductor: N.N
    Orchestra: Toronto Symphony Orchestra
    January 15, 2025 | Toronto, ON (Canada) , Roy Thomson Hall
  • Set Descending Direction