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TREVOR HOLD has dragged
from oblivion some music
you will not know.

11. Tippett's
Easy Duets for Children


What a delight it is to discover a hitherto unknown work by a major composer in a genre new and previously untested! So it is with these recently published piano duets for children by Sir Michael Tippett. They were written in the summer of 1962 - that is to say, immediately after the completion of his opera, King Priam - and the influence of that work is apparent throughout, even down to the Greek titles at the head of each movement. These, with the quotations from Dante, Hölderlin and Claudel which act as epigraphs, may cause consternation to some youngsters, but this will quickly be dispelled by the excitement of the music. Titles, epigraphs and a brief description, together with advice on interpretation and performance, are given below:

  1. Goatherd's Dance. ['Ich wünschte deine Klavierparte nicht so schwer wären!' (Hölderlin).] Based on an old Greek melody, this is a dance in Tippett's most exuberant style. The additive rhythms (different ones for each player) may cause some problems, particularly in keeping the ensemble together, so you will need to practise diligently!
  2. Dov's Lullaby. ['Io desideri che le vostre parte del. piano non essere cosi difficile!' (Dante).] The opening section, marked 'like a Ma Rainey Blues', is Tippett at his most with-it and laid-back. In the middle section, the scalic runs of Secundo (R.H.) and Primo (L.H.), which glide through each other, must be taken very steadily, otherwise damaged fingers could result. (A footnote about Ma Rainey would have been helpful.)
  3. Midsummer Frolic. ['Je voudrais que vos parties de piano ne soient pas aussi difficile!' (Claudel).] Despite its title, this piece is no picnic, and for the unprepared could be a distressing experience. The music never lets up for a moment and both players have to cope with roulades of demisemiquavers in both hands. However, should it prove beyond the techniques of his young performers the composer has thoughtfully provided an alternative version for four players at two pianos.

A final word: there may be some confusion about what Tippett means by 'Easy' in his title - as Mrs Bailey would say, 'There's easy, and there's easy' - but, nil desperandum, don't let this put you off. The difficulties are well worth surmounting.


Copyright © 3 February 2000, Trevor Hold, Peterborough, UK


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