The young Tippett – magpie and maverick – sought maximum intensity of feeling while shunning what he felt to be the sentimental fervour of Elgar, Bax and Walton. Equally abhorrent were the pastoral pieties of Vaughan Williams. Tippett took his stand with Blake and Yeats rather than Bunyan, and a Blake whose “bow of burning gold” required something altogether less complacent than Parry’s well upholstered jingoism.
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Anyone who loves twentieth century music, who loves English music, or who just plain loves music will love this collection of the music of Michael Tippett. Culled from previously issued but long out-of-print Philips, London, Argo, and l'Oiseau-Lyre LPs, most of these recordings were world premieres made in close consultation with the composer and in the hands of conductors Colin Davis, Georg Solti, Neville Marriner, pianist Paul Crossley, and the Lindsay String Quartet, they receive what can fairly be described as definitive performances. From the ecstatic lyricism of the Suite for Double String Orchestra of 1939 through the luminous vitality of the First Symphony of 1945, the radiant sensuality of the Ritual Dances of 1955, the blues-based modernism of the Third Symphony of 1972, to the glistening transcendentalism of the Fourth Symphony of 1977, Tippett's unique fusion of line, drive, color, and form is performed throughout with passionate dedication and absolute faith in the music's greatness.
Between 2013 and 2014, the Heath Quartet performed Michael Tippett's five string quartets in four concerts at Wigmore Hall, and this double CD presents the cycle with great clarity and freshness. Tippett composed these eclectic works over a period of almost 60 years, so the many changes in style and expression can be explained by that long time span, and attributed to the composer's constant search for new sources of inspiration.
Sergey Prokofiev's output for violin and piano was quite small, and it would have been limited to the Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor had he not also arranged his Five Songs Without Words and the Flute Sonata in D major, the latter at the request of David Oistrakh. One experiences a degree of discomfort in the Violin Sonata No. 1, which is one of Prokofiev's more unsettling pieces, due in part to its sinister tone and harsh dissonances, but also to its conflicting expressions.
Steven Osborne has already made a name for himself in French music with a disc of Alkan and a profoundly moving performance of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards. Here he reaches between those two to tackle one of the pinnacles of the piano repertoire—Debussy’s two books of Préludes. These works have been central to Steven’s repertoire for many years and he brings them to the studio after many public performances and much reflection. He has worked from the most up-to-date Urtext edition which clarifies Debussy’s thought in many places, particularly with regard to tempo relationships within La cathédrale engloutie and a missing bar in Les tierces alternées. In a crowded field Osborne need fear no comparisons: the pianism is exquisite and the interpretations are of a rare depth and subtlety—a recording to rival the very best!
This, one of Tippett's earliest acknowledged works, is one of his most popular. The music relates the true story of a young German Jew who, terrified and enraged at the treatment of his mother, kills a Nazi officer and touches off a violent pogrom. Tippett adopts the structure of Bach's Passions, in which arias alternate with choruses and Lutheran hymns (chorales), although in place of the chorales Tippett substitutes magnificently moving Negro spirituals. "A Child of our Time" offers music of rage, poignancy, and deep compassion. As the title itself implies, it is both specific to a certain time and place, and universal as well. No lover of classical music can afford to ignore it.