Yvonne Sherratt

Child of His Time

Michael Tippett: The Biography

By

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

    • 'Moore’s work has been so influential that the former ministers who provided him with much of his information now r… ,
    • 'Although he travels through time and space to find the best produce, his choices, delightfully, are not obvious.'… ,
    • RT : I regularly make purchases based on - it’s excellent.,
    • RT : I wrote about Yoko Ogawa's dreamlike, allegorical novel The Memory Police, newly published in English in a translat… ,
    • 'At this frankly apocalyptic moment for indigenous rights in Brazil, John Hemming’s "People of the Rainforest" is a… ,
    • 'I was dumbfounded by the view of the Berlin Wall from the eastern side. It seemed inconceivable that in under thre… ,
    • RT : Danger for ‘local’ staff, access in exchange for silence (and logos) - all sounds familiar in this fascinating look… ,