Michael Tippett

Michael Tippett: Symphonies No. 2 & No. 4

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Originally released in 1995 as a bonus CD with BBC Music Magazine, this authoritative recording of Michael Tippett's Symphonies No. 2 and No. 4 has reemerged as one of NMC's 2005 Tippett Centenary releases. In most ways, the Symphony No. 2 (1956-1957) is traditional, since it follows the expected symphonic form, as expanded by Beethoven, and its few deviations from the Classical norm, such as the triple and duple rhythms in the Presto veloce, or the chaconne variations in the finale, have precedents. Apart from its dissonant counterpoint and many passages of tonal ambiguity, this is a solid work that fulfills all expectations of a mid-twentieth century symphony. In contrast, the more discursive and searching Symphony No. 4 (1976-1977) unfolds in seven sections -- really four movements with three interludes -- in the manner of a free fantasia. However, Tippett's music also unfolds at three different, interchangeable speeds; this blurs distinctions of beginnings and endings, and further subdivides the work into smaller episodes. The Symphony No. 4 may seem a bit too disjointed and gestural, but for this style, Tippett is clearly superior to most of his academic contemporaries. The BBC Symphony Orchestra is clear and engaged under Tippett's direction, though it seems much more secure in the Symphony No. 2. The sound quality is decent.

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