Bob Summers wrote:
> I am very intrigued about the relationship between Eliot and Tippett.
> Was there any correspondence between them? Can any list member enlighten
Although Tippets is dead there is a website saying that it is his
"official" website at
There is a page there entitled "Books about Sir Michael Tippett"
In particular see the book by Kenneth Gloag.
Also there is a page on his "A Child of Our Time" that includes links
to MP3 files of selections from the work.
The following two paragraphs are just some of what was there:
In 1938, the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris by a young Polish
Jew, made desperate by the Nazi persecution of his race in general and
his family in particular, led to one of the most terrible pogroms of
Jews - the infamous Kristallnacht of 9 November. Tippett shared in the
public horror which this aroused, feeling inwardly also that he must
respond with a composition which, as it turned out, was to be his
first major public statement as an artist.
Having become friendly with the poet T. S. Eliot, he asked him if he
would write the libretto. Eliot agreed to consider the project on
condition that Tippett prepared a scenario for him, showing the shape
and character of each movement and sketching in his own ideas about
the text. This the composer did, taking as his model the Bach Passions
and Handel's Messiah. He thus laid out the basis for a three-part
oratorio, using standard baroque methods, such as recitative for
narration, and arias and ensembles culminating in negro
spirituals. The spirituals were the best twentieth-century counterpart
he could find to the Lutheran chorales of Bach's time, embodying texts
and music of an inherently universal significance. Eliot studied the
scenario in detail but then advised Tippett to write the text himself,
as any words from Eliot would probably overwhelm the music. Tippett
accepted his advice and, ever after, wrote his own libretti.
Other pages and excerpts from them are:
Tippett's revulsion at the terrifying pogroms of 1938, including the
infamous Kristallnacht of 9 November, produced this work, a modern
choral masterpiece which for many is the best work this visionary
composer produced. At first TS Eliot considered writing the text, but
eventually suggested that Tippett write the words himself. This he
did, using as his model the Bach 'Passions' and Handel's 'Messiah',
resulting in a three-part oratorio with standard baroque methods, such
as recitative for narration, and arias and ensembles. Being a modern
composer aware of current trends, Tippett included 'Negro spirituals',
as they were then called, as a modern counterpart to the Lutheran
chorales of Bach's time. The title came from a novel by the anti-Nazi
writer Ödon von Horvath, 'Ein Kind unserer Zeit' (1938).
Michael Tippett's oratorio A Child of Our Time was written at the
beginning of the second world war as an expression of 'man's
inhumanity to man'. It has become one of his most widely known works
and one which is seen to symbolise the composer's extra-musical
concerns, both political and psychological. This study places these
concerns within a wider historical and cultural context while also
focusing on specific aspects of Tippett's musical language. Central to
this enquiry is Tippett's relationship to the work of T. S. Eliot, a
relationship which is seen to condition both the text and its musical
representation through Tippett's allusions to specific poetic images
within the text and references to historical genres, forms and
gestures within the musical dimension. Also of importance is the
initial critical reception of the work, a reception which determined
responses that still surround the work.