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Michael Tippett

Twentieth century English composer Michael Tippett was born in Eastcote, west of London, on 2 January 1905, and grew up at Wetherden in Suffolk. He studied at the Royal College of Music - composition with Charles Wood and C H Kitson, and conducting with Malcolm Sargent and Adrian Boult.

Tippett was rebellious, gay, left-wing, a pacifist and briefly a member of the British Communist Party. He was influenced by Trotskyism and Jungian analysis. Early in his career he supported himself by working as a teacher, and later as a conductor and administrator.

His talents developed slowly, and he began to be recognised as a composer in 1935, when his first string quartet was performed in London by the Brosa Quartet. As war broke out in 1939, Tippett began composing his best-known work, the oratorio A Child of Our Time, based on the events leading to Kristallnacht.

In 1940 he became director of music at Morley College, which had just been completely destroyed by a bomb. He found temporary premises, revived the college's orchestra and choir, and brought in European refugees Walter Bergmann, Walter Goehr and Matyas Seiber to augment the teaching staff. He continued at Morley until 1951, with highlights including the first British performances of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 and Orff's Carmina Burana.

In 1943 he served two months in Wormwood Scrubbs prison, for failing to comply with the terms of his registration as a conscientious objector.

In 1944 he staged the first performance of A Child of Our Time, which was well-received and led to regular work with the BBC.

During the 1960s he expanded his horizons, working as composer-in-residence at Aspen, and becoming better and more internationally known, and increasingly honoured. His health deteriorated and he continued working, albeit at a slower pace, and continued to travel. His last overseas trip was to a festival of his music in Stockholm in November 1997, where he had a stroke, was taken home, and died on 8 January 1998, aged ninety-three.

During the first years of the 21st century, Tippett's music has fallen out of fashion, with fewer performances, especially of music from his later period.

A selection of M&V articles about Michael Tippett

Ensemble. Spine-tingling - Mike Wheeler is impressed by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen on tour

Ensemble. To the Glory of God - Giuseppe Pennisi visits the Sagra Musicale Umbra, celebrating old and new continents

Finest Attributes - Wigmore Hall recitals by Danny Driver, and by Jack Liebeck and Katya Apekisheva, admired by Bill Newman

CD Spotlight. Thoughtful and Elegiac - String quartets by David Matthews, recommended by Ron Bierman. 'The performances do full justice to the music.'

Ensemble. Brilliantly Dispatched - Ian McEwan and Michael Berkeley's 'For You', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi

Ensemble. In Full Voice - Britten's 'St Nicolas' at Canterbury Cathedral, enjoyed by Pippa Hare

Profile. Tête-à-Tête - Bill Newman talks to British pianist Mark Bebbington

Ensemble. Moments of magic - 'A Midsummer Marriage' at Covent Garden, reviewed by Robert Hugill

Class actions? - Alistair Hinton replies to Patric Standford's latest on 'Class acts'

Ensemble. Exquisite finesse - A song recital by Andrew Kennedy and Simon Lepper impresses Roderic Dunnett

Ensemble. Absolutely contemporary - David Wilkins was one of two M&V writers at Tippett's 'A Child of Our Time', staged at the London Coliseum on Friday 21 January 2005

Ensemble. Particularly frustrating - Robert Hugill on Jonathan Kent's staging of 'A Child of Our Time'

Reality or invention? - Peter Dale reads from a Liverpool University symposium on the musical work

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