Transfiguring the Everyday: The Musical Vision of Michael Tippett

by Simon Barrow

[P/b, 2023 – further details to follow.]

Michael Tippett has written some of the most evocative and challenging music of modern times. Yet beyond well-established earlier pieces – notably the oratorio A Child of Our Time, the Concerto for Double String Orchestra and his Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli – performances and recordings of Tippett’s works have been comparatively rare in recent years, while his general reputation has withered. Thankfully that is now changing. Simon Barrow’s Transfiguring the Everyday: The Musical Vision of Michael Tippett is the latest evidence of a long overdue rediscovery of this landmark personality in twentieth century music.

Starting with an imaginative introduction to the span of Tippett’s output, this book traces links between the composer’s musical legacy and his passionate, personal engagements with a wounded century – not least his heartfelt pacifism. It also features observations by those who have been energised by the life and music of Michael Tippett, explores its continuing and surprising impact, and offers an annotated bibliography and discography for the benefit of new and established listeners alike. Above all, Transfiguring the Everyday seeks to highlight the remarkable artistic vision that shaped all of Tippett’s work, confirming him as a creative and inspiring figure for this and future generations.


Introduction: Rediscovering Tippett

Part One: Searching the Music

  1. This strange unknown
  2. A symphonic imagination
  3. Concertos and instrumental music
  4. The child, the prophet and the sage
  5. A quintet of quartets
  6. The piano sings again
  7. Reinventing opera
  8. Choral and vocal music

Part Two: Sounding the Century

  1. Life animating music
  2. A pacifism of the heart
  3. Politics against the grain
  4. Learning, unlearning and re-learning
  5. Clothed in our right minds
  6. The philosophy of beauty
  7. Sexuality, struggle and sorrow
  8. Envisioning the creative impulse

Part Three: Sensing the Future

  1. Images of the past, shapes of the future
  2. An embracing intellect
  3. Engaging the vernacular
  4. Composers and writers
  5. Listeners and lovers
  6. Activists and dreamers
  7. Poets and artists
  8. Appreciation and criticism

Coda: New times for Tippett?



Bibliography and Discography