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Sir Michael Tippett

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Showing 1-25 of 34 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Feb 2013 00:28:10 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Feb 2013 00:28:46 GMT
JayJayDee says:
JF offered this thumbnail for SMT a couple of weeks ago.
I think it deserves its own thread. Some of us need a nudge towards Tippett

<<<<For people struggling with Tippett here are some thoughts. I guess features of Tippet's music that particularly attract me are:
*) an atypical use of more extreme intervals in melody and contrapuntal line, often imparting an ecstatic leaping quality.
*) frequent use of dotted triplet and scotch snap rhythms again able to impart a high spirited dancing quality.
*) Occasionally quite ferocious counterpoint.
*) In later works, use of close but discordant harmonies giving rise to novel timbres from otherwise familar instrumental combinations.
*) in later works, often curious ways of confounding expectation; diverting a line from a clearly anticipated climax; abruptly halting a line without a cadence.
*) In later works, an unafraidness to use quite ugly timbres in juxtaposition with beautiful ones to create a gritty kind of realism.

I think anyone wanting to get into Tippet has to start with the Double String Concerto with its life affirming and swaggering jazz inspired triplet rhythms, and the Corelli Fantasia with its orgasmic culminating fugue. I think the next most accessible work is the Piano Concerto, which to me evokes the flutter of gossamer wings in Faerie dells on Midsummer's Eve, and for which the piano part is quite astonishing if full concentration is given.

If someone can't get past any of these then I don't see that they're going to get much out of the later 'tricksy' stuff.

As to the symphonies, my estimations are:
No.1) Some fine ideas, but ultimately so lightweight a form as to only just qualify as a Symphony.
No.2) A loping, well hung beast of a symphony that ought to be a national treasure. Tonal but utterly modern. Criminally neglected.
No.3) Definitely a failed experiment, as someone says it goes rather downhill from the Beethoven 9 quote.
No.4) If you can get past the occasional awkward heavy breathing tape loops then a staggeringly inventive cosmic soundworld that's out there with the best of Lutoslawski or Ligeti. The breathing loops are least obstructive in the Hickox version

Personally I haven't caught the Tippett bug, but maybe an open discussion on Tippett's qualities and contribution to twentieth century music might make more of us take the plunge!

Posted on 14 Feb 2013 05:42:57 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Feb 2013 05:43:50 GMT
Mandryka says:
The thng that puts me off Tippett is the Jungian psychobabble which keeps cropping up, not just in the Knot Garden but also at end of King Priam for example, and in The Midsummer Marriage. Having said that, I think that King Priam is a wonderful opera, at least in the first two acts.

The Knot Garden is a queer milestone and deserves recognition for its courage.

I've never really gotten into his music apart from the operas. I used to play A Child of Our Time a lot, when Hickox released his record of it. Now it bores me a bit.

Posted on 14 Feb 2013 08:25:16 GMT
D. M. Ohara says:
I gather he wrote 4 piano sonatas and 4 string quartets. One rarely sees them discussed.
The operas and the large-scale choral and orchestral works do get attention, though.
And the concerto for double string orchestra and the Corelli variations.
It is many years since I listened to any of his music.
Years ago I did get the lps of The Knot Garden from the library. I seem to recall it was the first opera to portray a gay relationship. I mainly remember the quotations of Schubert's 'die liebe Farbe'....
Apologies for rambling!

Posted on 14 Feb 2013 10:25:54 GMT
I am a a big Tippet fan as some may know, but I don't have much time for Child of Our Time, so to speak. The Negro spirituals are a pleasing novelty but in general Tippett has not found his unique voice at this stage.

Posted on 14 Feb 2013 15:22:59 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Feb 2013 21:45:22 GMT
The five string quartets are worth investigation, especially bearing in mind he wrote hardly any other chamber works. The first three were written by the time he was about 40 and in the full flush of maturity and the final two are from his later years (in fact, no. 5 was one of his final compositions) - the last two are perhaps leaner in texture overall but with the characteristic vigour of a man who didn't use the excuse of advancing years to rest on his laurels and go down the 'wistful' or 'autumnal' route.

I have two of his operas, The Knot Garden and The Ice Break. The music I find stimulating but quite often the principal characters (especially from the former) have me tearing my hair out - precious isn't the word for them!

Posted on 14 Feb 2013 18:30:20 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Feb 2013 18:33:53 GMT
mancheeros says:
I remember watching a performance of The Knot Garden on the BBC when I was a pre-teen or a young teen. I can't remember any details about the music other than it was very strange and powerful. That was probably my earliest experience of modernist music and I have the BBC to thank for that important experience. It was the time of Omnibus, Arena, Play for Today, etc. Those were the days....

PS: There are three T's in Tippett.

Posted on 14 Feb 2013 18:36:31 GMT
enthusiast says:
The quartets are definitely very worthwhile and central to Tippett's output. And I particularly like the Midsummer Marriage and King Priam among the operas and the two concertos (Piano and Triple) as well as the two string masterpieces (Double Concerto and Corelli Fantasia) and The Vision of St Augustine and the 2nd and 4th symphonies and ... , well, quite a few other pieces. The biggest difficulty in getting to know Tippett is his tendency to crass and embarrassing gestures, and libretti (nonsensical stories and characters). But these are easy to get past and are not at all matched by the seriousness and quality of the actual music. The music is in a rather personal language which takes a little while to decode and Tippett is tasteful enough to not try to draw you in with appealing but ultimately shallow passages and big tunes. Once you are in, the music is extremely rewarding.

Posted on 15 Feb 2013 13:30:25 GMT
The piano sonatas are similarly worth investigating. The fourth piano sonata is also a serious contender for materpiece status. Stephen Osborne's recent Hyperion double set of Tippett's piano music is revelatory, though I must agree that the short Handel Variations is one of Tippett's expeeriments gone rather wrong.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Feb 2013 13:44:43 GMT
JayJayDee says:
If you were recommending just one or two Tippett discs as essential for anyone's collection, John, what would they be?
I won't tell you which I already have so as not to constrain your selection!
But I do admit to a generalised marginal preference for orchestral over smaller forms.

Posted on 15 Feb 2013 14:12:52 GMT
That is really hard JJ, but taking the Double Concerto/Corelli (Marriner/SMiF) for granted I would say it's a toss up between Atherton's King Priam, Tippett's own recordings of symph Nos.2 & 4 and the Osborne Piano Compendium. Having said that the Suite from New Year under Hickox is the most recent for me personally to make the transition between howling cacophony to sublime genius amd that one that probably has the most listening depth left in it for me.

Posted on 15 Feb 2013 14:33:28 GMT
JayJayDee says:
That's a sneaky "one or two", John.
Love it!
I guess you'll be having fifteen desert island discs!

I have the Andrew Davis coupling of the first-mentioned coupling

Posted on 15 Feb 2013 15:18:24 GMT
kenpat says:
I was at a concert where The Lindsays played 2 of the quartets the 5th being brand new at the time. They are well worth a listen and the double cd set with all the quartets is an essential purchase for any Tippett fan.

Posted on 16 Feb 2013 08:27:11 GMT
enthusiast says:
I don't know Tippett's own accounts of his symphonies, John F. He is often said to not be a (technically) good conductor but I always loved his St Augustine - it is more dense than it needs to be but there is so much passion: are you saying his accounts of Symphonies 2 & 4 are a good first recommendation. If so I will seek them out immediately!

Posted on 16 Feb 2013 11:28:44 GMT
Tippett's own recordings of his Nos.2 & 4 began life on the front of a BBC music magazine but were then releasedon the NMC label - Tippett - Symphonies 2 & 4

Posted on 16 Feb 2013 16:57:56 GMT
enthusiast says:
Hi John - Sorry but my post missed out the question mark. I know about the recording's history but was asking if you recommend this recording above (or even alongside), for example, Solti in the 4th. I've always enjoyed Solti but would be up for a different account if it is worthwhile.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2013 17:52:51 GMT
Roasted Swan says:
enthusiast - I'm far from being a Tippett expert but I got this disc in its BBC Mag incarnation and have always thought it one of the finest discs they ever produced. Memory serves the music was prepared by Andrew Davis and then the recordings conducted by Tippett and Tippett's own breathing sounds were recorded for the 4th Symphony which adds a little interest to proceedings.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Feb 2013 09:29:13 GMT
enthusiast says:
Thank you, Nick. I will give it a go.

Posted on 17 Feb 2013 10:29:45 GMT
Just to say, my favourite 4th is the Hickox, if only that the breathing sounds are slightly less obtrusive. There's something slightly brittle about Solti's performance, a little self-conscious.

Posted on 17 Feb 2013 12:17:20 GMT
enthusiast says:
Oh dear - now I have to at least sample two more 4ths! Oh well, needs must.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Feb 2013 12:26:02 GMT
Roasted Swan says:
enthusiast - go with John F - I'm a Tippett dabbler at best!

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Feb 2013 12:59:41 GMT
enthusiast says:
Well, Nick - I was always going to get the Hickox at some point. His gentle and careful take on Tippett often pays dividends. But if the Tippett conducts Tippett is good then that also could be a special treat. Very possibly I will retain my love of the Solti as the recording I got to know the work from - it is at least a committed and very well played account - but I do feel like hearing it from a new angle.

Posted on 17 Feb 2013 14:55:11 GMT
Of course the advantage of the Solti is that it does include Byzantium, a work which took me some time to warm to (as did most of them).

Posted on 17 Feb 2013 17:22:53 GMT
Last edited by the author on 17 Feb 2013 17:25:44 GMT
enthusiast says:
Yes indeed - Byzantium is a very considerable bonus. Actually, you know, Tippett didn't write that much music and nearly everything I have hears seems very worthwhile. So perhaps ideas about where to start need to be more about which phase in this creative output to start with. For most of us that will be the Midsummer Marriage period.

Posted on 17 Feb 2013 17:49:50 GMT
In our school music lessons we were played the Concerto for Double String Orchestra as a 'typical' piece of modern music. To be fair it wasn't much more than 20 years old at the time and probably less than that when the syllabus was concocted. If our music teacher had more radical ideas he kept quiet about it.

Posted on 20 Feb 2013 21:12:18 GMT
Doreen Hunt says:
Sorry everybody but I find Tippett's vocal settings excrutiatingly embarrassing. The only work of his I relly enjoy is the Piano Concerto and even then only when it is the John Ogdon/Philharmonia recording. Child of our Time and the operas are just too awful for words.
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Participants:  14
Total posts:  34
Initial post:  14 Feb 2013
Latest post:  23 Feb 2013

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