Yvonne Sherratt

Child of His Time

Michael Tippett: The Biography


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 750pp £25 order from our bookshop

There is much discussion around how to make classical music more accessible. Oliver Soden, in his biography of Michael Tippett (1905–98), ‘one of 20th century Britain’s great visionary composers’, has resorted to a time-tested approach, producing 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.

From the outset, Soden beautifully captures the details of Tippett’s world. He visits the Suffolk village where Tippett grew up on ‘an enchantingly bright and sunny day, the sort of day that makes sense of the flat Suffolk landscape: there is so much sky’. He continues, ‘In the garden I see the well from which water was drawn, and the pond in which … Michael caught tadpoles.’ Throughout, Soden contrasts the details of Tippett’s life with events around him: the collapse of empires, the rise of the suffragettes and the horrors of two world wars.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,