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Twelve writers (including two from the University of Melbourne, two from the University of Cardiff) contribute to this study of Tippett and his works. Most commentators and audiences now recognise that Benjamin Britten was the towering talent of the age, which the current flood of Britten centenary publications demonstrates. In that respect, the timing of the appearance of this companion is unfortunate.

Even in the preface, editors Gloag and Jones, both currently at Cardiff, confess that a great deal of Tippett’s music is no longer being performed. Strangely, the cover blurb claims the book to be ‘directing knowledge and expertise towards a wide readership’. Surely even a generous reviewer will have difficulty in imagining exactly how large this wide readership for Tippett can be in 2013?

The text is organised into two halves. The first looks at ‘contexts and concepts’, the second at ‘works and genres’. Musical examples are given. Suzanne Robinson writes on ‘encodings of homosexual identity from the first string quartet to The Heart’s Assurance’, Joanna Bullivant writes about ‘Tippett and politics’, and Kenneth Gloag discusses ‘Tippett and the concerto’ and ‘Tippett’s operatic world’. There are 13 essays in total, plus a useful chronological list of works.

‘His time will come again,’ writes Arnold Whittall at the close of the first essay, though he had begun his prolix contribution some 24 pages earlier by describing the works that appeared around the time of The Midsummer Marriage as the prelude to a long slow decline in interest in Tippett, which gives the game away. Whittall also mentions Tippett contemporaries Elisabeth Lutyens, Humphrey Searle, Denis ApIvor, Arnold Cooke, Grace Williams, Elizabeth Maconchy and George Lloyd. Unfortunately, nothing written in these pages gives one much hope of a second coming for Tippett, any more than for any of the other composers listed.

Enthusiasm can be endearing, of course, but if Tippett’s time should come again a resurgence of interest will owe little to books such as this.

JOHN ROBERT BROWN Read the full review on Agora Classica


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