The Cambridge Companion to Michael Tippett

Article excerpt

The Cambridge Companion to Michael Tippett

Edited by Kenneth Gloag and Nicholas Jones

Cambridge University Press, PB, 327pp, 19.99 [pounds sterling]

ISBN 978-1-107-60613-5

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Statistics may (hopefully) prove otherwise but, 15 years after Sir Michael Tippett's death, it seems that his works, especially the operas, have not yet recovered from that eclipse that seems to follow the absence of their creator. Only A Child of Our Time, the song-cycles and some of the piano music have anything like a regular hold on the repertoire. So the appearance now of anew Tippett book is to be welcomed, both because of that eclipse and because the timing coincides with the centenary of Benjamin Britten -whose reputation is still wrongly regarded as the main obstacle to the wider appreciation of Tippett's oeuvre. This Companion, dedicated to the scholar Ian Kemp, who died in 2011, draws on a team of pretty much everyone still at work who has written on the composer to take an exhaustively complete look at his art and life.

At the start, Jonathan Rees's chronology of Tippett's life and career features an impressively thorough and relevant 'cultural and historical events column. Arnold Whittall's few-holds-barred tour d'horizon then situates Tippett's achievement--and what one might term his 'progressiveness amid those of his 20th-century colleagues. Whittall also essays a neat draft of the five generally agreed-upon stages of Tippett's career (each had a symphonic work, an opera, at least one chamber work and 'spin-off concertos or oratorios) and introduces the reader to the close relationship between Tippett's ever-active intellectual life and his music. …