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English composer Sir Michael Tippett didn't really discover music until his teens and in his adult life was composer, conductor, and politically incorrect pacifist radical (he was actually imprisoned for three months during WW II for his pacifist actions). He wrote his first Symphony at 37 years of age and was most prolific during his later years. His work was especially popular in the United States, and Symphony No. 4 was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In the present album we hear Byzantium and Symphony No. 4 by Sir Michael Tippett performed by Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on a London disc recorded in or before 1991.
Byzantium originated as a song cycle of three movements but was abandoned in favor of the present set of five songs with mezzo Faye Robinson. The singer does a first rate job and the performance is commendable. I must confess not being especially of modern song cycles, and despite the superb orchestral role, I will be unlikely to revisit Byzantium in the future. If you enjoy such works, I am certain that you will not be disappointed in this performance. The orchestra sounds fantastic!
Symphony 4 is organized as a single 30-minute movement, but sections roughly correspond to movements. Tippett called the symphony a "birth to death piece," harking back to a visit to a museum experience during which he saw preserved fetuses. The symphony even employs breathing sound machine. The 1st section opens darkly (almost bleakly) and introduces several tempi that will characterize the remaining sections. I find that absorbing the music produces the greatest pleasure when you first listen to this symphony, because trying to make sense of symphony initially is a rather challenging.Read more ›
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I think, Michael Tippett's Symphony No. 4 is one of the best symphonies written in 20th century. And this is one of the best compositions of Tippett. This symphony was written for Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was dedicated to Sir Georg Solti. So, in this CD includes best performance of this work (with composer's own recording with BBC SO)... This work is one of the very heavy and most close to atonal work. Even so, Tippett was tried 12-ton system in this work, but sometimes written however with tonality. And orchestration is not usual: 2 piccolos, 2 cor anglais, 2 bass-clarinet, 2 contrabassoon, 6 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 tubas, a large percussion ensemble, strings, piano and a offstage voice (with microphone and amplifier) or type (synthesizer)... This symphony tells about a Hero's Life (like R. Strauss' great tone poem "Ein Heldenleben"), and is formed in one movement (like Sibelius' 7th Symphony). Duration is about 30 minutes. And Tippett was used breath voices for describe the hero (like the breaths of Darth Wader in Star Wars!). The symphony starts with the Hero's Birth and with new themes (in slow and Scherzo movements) tells his wars and victories. But in Coda (final movement) Hero is living his last moments and his breaths gradually go to slowly. And this recording is one of the first Digital recording, made in 1979 and this recording made with supervision of the composer. "Byzantium" (based on poems by William Butler Yeats) is also very good and this is a live recording from Carnegie Hall. Highly recommended.