SIR MICHAEL TIPPETT Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Name: Michael Kemp Tippett                                                           
Sir Michael Kemp Tippett (2 January 1905 – 8 January 1998) was one of the           
foremost English composers of the 20th century.                                       
Tippett was born in London of English and Cornish stock. His mother was a             
charity worker and a suffragette, and he was a cousin of suffragette leader           
Charlotte Despard.                                                                   
Although he enjoyed his childhood, after losing their hotel business in southern     
France, his parents decided to travel through and live on the Continent, and         
Michael and his brother attended boarding schools in England. At that time,           
Tippett won a scholarship and studied in Fettes College, Edinburgh, but he soon       
moved to Stamford School after some extremely unhappy personal experience. This,     
combined with his discovering his homosexuality, contributed to making Tippett's     
teenage years lonely and rather stressful. Although he was open about his sexual     
orientation, it seems that he started to feel emotional strain from a rather         
early age, and this later became a major motivation to his composition. Before       
his time at Stamford, Tippett hardly had any contact with music at all, let           
alone formal musical training. He recalled that it was in Stamford, where he had     
piano lessons and saw Malcolm Sargent conducting, that he decided to become a         
composer, although he did not know what it meant nor how to start.                   
He registered as a student in the Royal College of Music, where he studied           
composition with Charles Wood and C.H.Kitson, and the former's teaching on           
counterpoint had profound influence on Tippett's future compositional style;         
many of his works, despite the complicated sonority, are essentially                 
contrapuntal. At the RCM, Tippett also studied conducting with Adrian Boult and       
Malcolm Sargent. In the 1920s, living simply in Surrey, he plunged himself into       
musical life, conducting amateur choirs and local operas. Later, he taught at         
Morley College.                                                                       
Unlike his contemporaries William Walton and Benjamin Britten, Tippett was a         
late developer as a composer and was severely critical of his early compositions.     
At the age of 30, he studied counterpoint and fugue with Reginald Owen Morris.       
His first mature compositions show a fascination with these aspects.                 
Formerly a member of the Communist Party, in 1935 Tippett broke with them to         
join the Trotskyist Bolshevik-Leninist Group.                                         
From the mid-1960s until the early 1970s, Tippett had a close relationship with       
the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra (LSSO), conducting them regularly       
in the UK and on tour in Europe and generally supporting the state-funded             
musical education programme that had produced an orchestra of such high               
standards. He conducted the LSSO almost exclusively in twentieth-century music,       
including Gustav Holst's The Planets, Charles Ives's Three Places in New England     
(see external link to Putnam's Camp video below), Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue,       
Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphoses and many new works by English composers.         
Under Tippett, the LSSO, an orchestra of ordinary secondary school children aged     
14 to 18, regularly performed on BBC radio and TV, made commercial gramophone         
records and established new standards for music-making in an educational context.     
Many leading British performers had their first experience of orchestral music       
in the LSSO under Tippett.                                                           
Tippett was knighted in 1966, and awarded the Order of Merit in 1983. He             
remained very active composing and conducting. His opera, New Year, received its     
premiere in 1989. Then came Byzantium, a piece for soprano and orchestra             
premiered in 1991. His autobiography, Those Twentieth Century Blues also             
appeared in 1991. A string quartet followed in 1992. In 1995 his ninetieth           
birthday was celebrated with special events in Britain, Canada and the US,           
including the premiere of his final work, The Rose Lake. In that year a               
collection of his essays, Tippett on Music, also appeared.                           
In 1996, Tippett moved from Wiltshire to London. In 1997, in Stockholm for a         
retrospective of his concert music, he developed pneumonia. He was brought home       
where he died early in 1998.                                                         
Sir Michael is distantly related to his namesake Michael Tippett, founder of