Tippett in Focus

Tippett in Focus, July 1988


Scottish Opera's The Midsummer Marriage

Scottish Opera's first presentation of The Midsummer Marriage opens at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow on Wednesday 21 September. It is the much-praised version which appeared first at Opera North as part of a co- production series in 1985 and was described by Max Loppert in the Financial Times as 'a striking, exhilarating success'. Performances in Glasgow are on September 21, 23 and October 15 and 20; it will also be performed in Newcastle on October 26; Edinburgh on November 3; and in Aberdeen on November 11. Scottish Opera is conducted by John Pryce Jones and the production is directed by Tim Albery and designed by Tom Cairns and Tony McDonald. The cast includes:

Mark - Quade Winter
Jenifer - Marie Slorach
King Fisher - Neil Howlett
Bella - Patricia O'Neill
Jack - Bonaventura Bottone
Sosostris - Penelope Walker
She-Ancient - Claire Livingstone
He-Ancient - David Marsh

The Midsummer Marriage will by the end of this year have received productions from the Royal Opera, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and Opera North as well as productions in Australia, Sweden and the USA. It has been described as 'one of the miracles of music', and 'close to the perfect opera', make sure you don't miss it.

See Publications & Offers for special limited edition of the score, signed by the composer.

Recording: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducted by Sir Colin Davis. PHILIPS 6703 027 (LP).

A film of The Midsummer Marriage has recently been made by Thames Television and is scheduled for transmission early next year on Channel Four. At the end of August Thames TV will also be recording a conversation between the composer and director Elijah Moshinsky which will be screened immediately before the tranmission of the opera. The cast includes Philip Langridge as Mark, Lucy Shelton as Jenifer, Peter Jeffes/Jack, Patricia O'Neill/Bella, David Wilson- Johnson/King Fisher, Sarah Walker/She-Ancient, Roger Bryson/He-Ancient. The opera is directed by Elijah Moshinsky and produced for Thames TV by Michael Waterhouse.

The Knot Garden

The Knot Garden returned to the Royal Opera House in April, in a production using once again the full orchestral score: Meirion Bowen's version for reduced orchestra has been successfully used in several recent productions, notably by the Opera Factory/London Sinfonietta, The Royal Academy of Music, and at Gelsenkirchen for the European premiere, but this was the first time since the Royal Opera's revival of the work in 1972 that the full score has been used. The new production team of Nicholas Hytner and Bob Crowley attracted a great deal of attention after their previous successes and immense media interest was generated by the appearance as conductor of Sian Edwards, the first woman ever to conduct at Covent Garden. The first night on April 29 was a Midland Bank Prom and the removal of the orchestra stalls made space for a large, enthusiastic and predominantly young crowd.

Recording: Soloists and the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducted by Sir Colin Davis. PHILIPS 412 707 1 (LP).

King Priam:

The composer was present in Nancy on April 19, when the Opera de Nancy et de Lorraine gave the first production in France of King Priam. In a country which has been slow to discover Tippett's music this was a remarkable achievement and credit is due to the Director-General of the Nancy Opera, Antoine Bourseiller, who was also the producer. The conductor, Paul Daniel, 'worked musical wonders' and 'the performance left one freshly astonished by the pungent rightness of Tippett's musical images, every one. It was profoundly moving.' (Sunday Times)

Recording: Soloists, London Sinfonietta Voices and Chorus and the London Sinfonietta conducted by David Atherton. DECCA D 246D3 (LP) K246K33 (cassette)

The Mask of Time

The highly successful Manchester performance of The Mask of Time in February this year, by the Halle chorus and orchestra under Sir Charles Groves (part of the Tippett/Debussy Festival) demonstrated that "this abundant and difficult music can be performed by the traditional amateur choral society". (The Guardian) In the Royal Festival Hall on June 1 it was the turn of the Goldsmith's Choral Union and the National Centre for Orchestral Studies Symphony Orchestra to show the truth of the comment in The Observer: "Clearly this is a work which gets through to people and which is already on the way to carving out a corner in the crowded repertoire of major choral works." The performance was preceeded by an open rehearsal on May 31 at the Greenwich Borough Hall, in which the composer took part; and in a pre- concert discussion at the Royal Festival Hall, Sir Michael talked with Michael Kustow, of Channel Four.

Recording: The Mask of Time is one EMI: CDS 7 47705 8 (for CD); EX 27 0567 9 (cassette) and EX 270567- 3 (LP).

A Child of Our Time

This rightly continues to be among the most popular of Tippett's works and receives performances regularly in many different countries.

Belgium It is featured this autumn in the Flanders Festival in Belgium. On September 29 it is performed in Ghent Cathedral and on September 30 in Antwerp Cathedral. The Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia Chorus are conducted by Gunter Neuhold and the soloists will be Faye Robinson, Felicity Palmer, Stuart Burrows and John Shirley-Quirk.

Switzerland Two performances at the Fraumunster Church, Zurich are scheduled for November 6 and 12. The TonArt Choir and Orchestra are conducted by Walter Riethmann and among the soloists will be the soprano Michele Berger and the tenor Rainaldo Macias. Further information from: TonArt Neue Chorakzente Zurich, Bonacherweg 3, CH-8128 Hinteregg, Switzerland.

Recordings: A Child of Our Time is available in the following recordings: RPO/Brighton Festival Chorus/Soloists Armstrong, Palmer, Langridge, Shirley-Quirk/cond. Previn. RPO 8005 (LP); CDRPO 8005 (CD); ZCRPO 8005 (cassette). PHILIPS: BBCSO/BBC Chorus & Singers/Soloists Norman, Baker, Cassilly, Shirley-Quirk/cond. C. Davis. Philips 6500 985 (LP) 420075-2 (CD) ARGO: RLPO/RLPC Chorus/Soloists Morrison, Bowden, Lewis, Standen/cond. Pritchard. Argo DPA 571 (LP).

UK News

Water out of Sunlight

The composer chose this title for the string orchestra arrangement of his String Quartet no. 4. This was made, at the camposer's request, by Meirion Bowen and premiered at the Royal Festival Hall on June IS by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner. Sir Michael writes: "When I asked T.S. Eliot once why he had called his late poems Four Quartets, he told me the title arose from his passionate love and admiration for Beethoven's late quartets. I shared his :,passion; and certainly my own Quartet 4 relates to that world of intimate and intense musical sound. "The most enduring image out of the poems for me has been the drained pool in the rose garden, which comes at the start of Burnt Norton. The relevant lines are: 'Dry the pool, dry eoncrete, brown edged, And the poo1 was filled with water out of sualight, And the lotus rose, quietly, quietly, The surface glittered out of heart of light, And they were behind us, reflected in the pool. Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.' "It is easy to see, I think, how the mixture ef' my memories of Eliot, our mutual love of Beethoven quartets and of his own poetry, pertains to the creative mood in which I composed the quartet music.

"In the poem, the movement from 'drained pool' to 'water out of sunlight' comes more than once, as it does also in the quartet. The transcription from four solo strings to string orchestra should make the 'sunlight' brighter. Yet the journey from incohate murmurs to resplendent sound and back remain in essence the same."

A photocopy of the score can be obtained from the Hire Department of Schott & Co. (address on back page). Price on application.

Remaking the Dream

This is the title of a film made by Granada TV about the visit of Sir Michael to Manchester for the Tippett/ Debussy Festival in January and February this year. It has already been shown in the Granada region on March 31 and we are promised a showing nationwide on Channel Four in the near future. Highlights include the composer rehearsing young students at Chethams School of Music and at the Royal Northern College of Music; conducting the Halle Orchetra; visiting Jodrell Bank with two Astronomers Royal; and talking about his socks.

York Festival

All four string quartets are featured at this year's York festival and take place at the Guildhall: Quartet no. 1: June 18: Alberni Quartet Quartet no. 2: June 25: Alberni Quartet Quartet no. 3: July 2: Duke Quartet Quartet no. 4: July 9: Vanbrugh Quartet Also during the festival will be a performance of A Child of Our Time. This is in York Minster on 5 July at 8.00pm. The English Northern Philharmonia and Chorus of Opera North are conducted by Elgar Howarth and the soloists are Rita Cullis, Jean Rigby, Philip Langridge and Nicholas Folwell.

News form the U.S.A.

Milwaukee The Hamburg Ballet Ensemble are giving eight guest performances in Milwaukee between 19 June and 3 July. This is in honour of John Neumeier and will include part of his ballet Amleth, created for Copenhagen to the music of Sir Michael Tippett. In the U.S.A. they will use movements 1 and 2 from the Divertimento 'Sellinger's Round'.

TV & Video

The much-praised Kent Opera production of King Priam was shown on Bravo recently and indeed the video is now available on Home Vision Video, catalogue number KIN02.

Tippett Exhibition

A new version of the photographic exhibition titled A Man of our Time, with fresh U.S. material, has been compiled by Jonn Leedham at the Tippett Shop (address on back page), which is available for hire and exhibition. It is a portable exhibition, consisting of panels of photographic and textual material illustrating the life and career of the composer, with extracts from family photographic albums, reprints of newspaper cuttings from the 1930's to the present, concert and opera programmes, opera production pictures and biographical details. A particular highlight is the reproduction of pages from several Tippett manuscripts, giving a fascinating picture of the composer at work. There are also panels covering his world travels and reflecting his visits to, and affection for, the U.S.A. Full details of availability and terms from The Tippett Shop (see back page). The U.K. version of the exhibition continues to be seen all over Europe and further afield: full details from the Tippett Office (London).

New Year: work in progress

Sir Michael's fifth opera New Year, which will have its eagerly-awaited world premiere at Houston in October 1989, is well on schedule. The composer has now finished Act 2 (of three) and hopes to have completed the whole work around the end of the year. What's it about? There are certainly some strange ingredients, and fanciful rumours abound, but nothing will be revealed until the work is finished!

News from around the world


His health now fully recovered, Sir Michael has been even more active than usual! After participating in the highly successful Tippett/Debussy Festival in Manchester, where he conducted the Symphony no. 3 and the Piano Concerto, he then visited Sweden to conduct his Symphony no. 4 with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra on April 16. From Stockholm he went on to Nancy for the French premiere of King Priam, given by the Opera de Nancy on April 19. Then he paid a short visit to Corsica for a well-earned vacation.


The BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra visited the USSR in May and gave the first performances there of the Tippett Piano Concerto. On May 23 they visited Novosibirsk in Siberia and on May 27 played in the Philharmonic Hall in Leningrad. The BBC Welsh Symphony was conducted by Tadaaki Otaka and the soloist was Yitkin Seow.


At a brief ceremony at the French Embassy on June 1 Sir Michael received from the Cultural Attache the insignia of Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.


Premiere reeording of String Qaartet 4 by the Lindsay Quartet The Lindsay String Quartet's outstanding recording of the Tippett fourth quartet is now available from ASV. It is coupled with Britten's third quartet and fills a major gap in the Tippett discography. The Daily Telegraph called it 'superb' and the fndependent commented: 'The Lindsay Quartet, who have championed it consistently for a decade, make much of its richly mysterious opening and the curvilinear contours of its slow movement.' It is available in aIl formats on ASV: CD DCA 608 (CD); ZC DCA 608 (cassette) and DCA 6D8 (LP).

A Grand Prix du Disque, two Grammy nominations and a BPI nomination were collected by Tippett works in the past year. The Mask of Time won a Grand Prix du Disque and received nominations for both Grammy and BPI awards. The other Grammy nomination was for the Previn recording of A Child of Our Time.

If you are experiencing difficulty in obtaining any Tippett recordings currently in the catalogue, please advise the Tippett Office and we will do our best to assist: in certain cases we might be able to supply the recordings you require.

Publications & Offers

20th-Century English Masters New Grove's Composers' Biographies Series (ed. Diana McVeagh): Article by Prof. Iam Kemp. (Also includes essays on Elgar, Delius, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Walton, and Britten). Macmillan f8.95 (ISBN 0333 40 421)

Special offer
The Midsummer Marriage

There remain a small number of the limited de luxe study score edition of 200 copies (bound in hardcovers) signed by the composer. This special edition is a collector's item and a bargain at Z33.75 (plus f2.25 pkp UK only). Please send with your order a cheque made out to 'The Tippett Office'. Offer subject to availability.

Tippett/Debussy Festival Brochure

We also have some copies of the Manchester Tippett/Debussy Festival brochure left. This features specially commissioned articles on the music of Tippett and Debussy by Ian Kemp, Stephen Pettitt, David Clarke and Richard Langham-Smith, together with interesting photographic material and all the festival programmes. Copies at 80p including postage.