BBC Music Magazine
A guide to Tippett
Explore his best works Tippett’s first professionally performed and published work was his rhythmically and polyphonically complex String Quartet No. 1 of 1935 (rev. 1943). Sixty years later the London Symphony Orchestra premiered The Rose Lake at a 90th birthday concert in 1995; it was intended to be his final work, but he then penned Caliban’s Song for the Purcell tercentenary celebrations that year.
Between these bookends, his style evolved from the florid writing of the Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli through the terse opera King Priam to the more lyrical, luminous later music.
His works include four piano sonatas, five string quartets, four symphonies and five operas. His 1951 The Heart’s Assurance is an important contribution to 20th-century song. His music – the oratorio A Child of our Time aside – has sometimes baffled audiences, yet recent years have seen positive reappraisal of his work. The Heath Quartet recently recorded the complete quartets to acclaim, and the BBC Scottish Symphony last year gave a cycle of the symphonies, including the withdrawn early Symphony in B flat.