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This review is from: Tippett : Concerto for Double String Orchestra, Fantasia Concertante & Ritual Dances - APEX (Audio CD)
Already owning several versions of the first two works on this disc, and a version of the opera from which the material of the third work is drawn, my purchase of this disk was as much about creating a legitimate opportunity for a rejoinder to the faint praise of Tippett's other music by the other reviewer here. As it happens the disk turns out to be a worthy addition to my substantial Tippett collection.
The first movement of the Double Concerto, as even on Tippett's own recording of it, is just a tad fast for my taste. For me, the delight is so much in the ingenious contrapuntal detail, and as such, Neville Marriner's ASMF Tippett: Concerto for Double String Orchestra yet remains the benchmark version that lays bare for inspection the beautiful clockwork below the sparkling surface. However, the gorgeously nostalgic keening of the second movement, and the hail, well-met affability of the third are all I could wish for. I find myself struck yet again by the open hearted joy imparted by the exuberant additive rhythms, and abundant goodwill that so arrested me when I first heard this work on a televised Prom, around age fifteen, almost forty years ago. I went to the high street record shop the next day and bought the Marriner version on good old vinyl, whence I was introduced to the accompanying Corelli Fantasia.
The Corelli Fantasia has been one of my two favourite pieces of music throughout my life (the other being the track Lady L, from John Mclaughlin's Shakti, A Handful of Beauty, discovered the same year. I can remember in my student days putting it on, night after night, in the pitch dark, volume turned up to seriously anti-social levels, and letting its glorious sound flood over me, again and again. The central climactic fugue is, for me, the finest and must unabashedly erotic two minutes in all of music. On this recording there are many dynamical differences to my Marriner benchmark. The approach to the fugal climax is, if anything, even more intense, even more overtly virtuosic. The release, perhaps a bit rushed, somewhat less luxuriant and more pleased with itself just for having arrived safely. In all, a worthy addition and a fresh angle on the core abstraction of the work.
Though I own the Davis recording of the Tippett: The Midsummer Marriage, I have never got around to checking out the Ritual Dances Suite distilled from its music. Though all the material is familiar to me, this arrangement of it adds up to something very impressive, indeed, I found it quite breathtaking. The result is something a lot like Stravinsky's Rite, but without the pervasive menace and abandoned savagery. A real surprise, and a bonus for being unexpected.
This is, as my enthusiasm would suggest, as good as Tippett gets; for me, as good as music gets. But I would like to contribute my two-penneth to offset the general opinion that this is the only accessible music, and therefore the only worthwhile music that Tippett wrote. Tippett was a bold explorer, with a supremely individualistic imagination. As such, much of his music, especially after the first 'radiantly lyrical 'phase that culminated in the Midsummer Marriage, is notoriously difficult to form an appreciation of. Then there are the infamous operatic lyrics, (to my mind no less nutty than those of Wagner), which give people an easy excuse to dismiss the musical baby with the lyrical bath water. It took me nearly ten years, and persistent and repeated effort, for the penny to drop with the string quartets, Tippett - String Quartets. When it finally did, I found myself transported to a world more refined and subtly nuanced than had been indicated to me by any other art or art-form. Since then, each of Tippett's works, one by one, has yielded slowly, and usually quite suddenly to my comprehension. I know that most music lovers are content to encounter music in terms of easy jumps from what they have known and enjoyed before. I would just like to wave a flag in the air to those of a more adventurous spirit, to indicate that perseverance with Tippett's difficult works can lead to unprecedented experiences and treasures of near inestimable price