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Classical Composers A-Z: Michael Tippett

Peter Wintersgill introduces us to the celebrated English composer, Michael Tippett.

Born
2nd January, 1905, in London.

Father
Solicitor

Mother
Suffragette and vegetarian.

Family
Elder brother Peter.

Childhood
Lived in Suffolk, went to prep school at eight, then Fettes School, Edinburgh at 13, then Stamford Grammar School. Parents moved to France in 1919.

Adolescence
Had piano lesson from Mrs. Tinkler. Entered Royal College of Music at 18, studied composition with Charles Wood and conducting with Boult and Sargent. Returned to Royal College of Music later and studied counterpoint with R O Morris.

Early Adult Life
During the depression in the 1930's conducted an orchestra of unemployed professionals. Like his friend Britten he was a conscientious objector and went to prison, and a homosexual.

He was musical director of Morley College from 1940 -1951.

At the age of 30 he destroyed all he had written so far and began a new phase. He started with his first string quartet (1934) and a Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1939), followed by his first oratorio A Child of our Time (1941, first performance 1944), his first work to really last.

After this came the Suite for the Birth of Prince Charles (1948), his first opera A Midsummer Marriage (1955) and a Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli (1958).

Following a change of style, when his music became simpler and tougher, came the second opera King Priam (1962), the third opera The Knot Garden (1970), the choral work The Vision of St. Augustine (1965) and the Concerto for Orchestra (1963). Finally came the fourth opera The Ice Break and fourth Symphony (both 1976).

His works showed the influence of, for instance, blues, Negro spirituals, Monteverdi, Purcell and Beethoven. He always wrote his own librettos.

His honours included knighthood, C.H. and O.M.

He died on January 8th, 1998.

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