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Michael Tippett: The Biography

Oliver Soden

4 Reviews

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20th century & contemporary classical music, Individual composers & musicians, specific bands &, Biography: arts & entertainment

The first full-length biography of Michael Tippett (1905-1998), one of 20th-century Britain's great visionary composers.

'A delight to read' Philip Pullman
'Essential reading ... a genuine landmark publication' Tom Service
A BBC Radio 4 'Book of the Week'

The music of the British composer Michael Tippett - including the oratorio A Child of Our Time, five operas, and four symphonies - is among the most visionary of the twentieth century. But little has been written about his extraordinary life. In this long-awaited first biography, Oliver Soden weaves a century-spanning narrative of epic scope and penetrating insight. His achievement is to have enriched our understanding not only of Tippett but of the twentieth century. Figures such as T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Barbara Hepworth, and W.H. Auden jostle in the cast list. An Edwardian world of gaslight and empire cedes to turmoil and warfare and his operas' game-changing attitudes to gay and civil rights, against a backdrop of the Cold War and the Space Race.

The result is a landmark in the study of twentieth-century culture, simultaneously an astonishing feat of scholarship and a story as enthralling as in any great novel.

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Praise for Michael Tippett: The Biography

  • A delight to read ... Oliver Soden's vivid biography of this major figure in twentieth-century music brings Tippett very clearly to life

  • Compelling ... an exceptional piece of work ... The joy of Soden's biography is largely in its novelistic grasp of the telling details ... It has so much to say about the 20th century from an unusual and compelling angle that it ought to appeal to many readers who don't necessarily find themselves deep in the world of art music ... The Britten bibliography may be 100 times the size, but it contains hardly anything as brilliant as this book. Let the revival begin - The Spectator

  • [A] narrative in which readers can effortlessly lose themselves. Anyone wishing to discover the life of Tippett as a way into his music - his works include A Child of Our Time, five operas and four symphonies - will find in Soden's book meticulously researched biographical detail and a good story well told ... Soden's biography paints an authoritative, intricate portrait of Tippett, providing a stunning, delicate and engrossing portrayal of the composer as very much a child of his time - Literary Review

  • That rarest of things: a genuine landmark publication ... As much a biography of the twentieth century as it's about Tippett's music ... Essential reading - Music Matters on BBC Radio 3

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Oliver Soden

Oliver Soden was born in Bath, and educated at Lancing College, and then at Clare College, Cambridge, where he took a double first in English. He worked as literary assistant to RSC founder-director John Barton, editing a volume of Barton's ten-play cycle Tantalus, before becoming a researcher on BBC Radio 3's long-running programme Private Passions.

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