The Kennedy Center

Sir Michael Kemp Tippett


Sir Michael Kemp Tippett was an English composer born in London in 1905. During the 1920's (1923-28), he studied composition at the Royal College of Music (RCM) with Charles Wood and C.H. Kitson. After additional education, he held several positions as a teacher and conductor. From 1933 to 1940 he led the South London Orchestra at Morley College and served as the college's Director of Music from 1940-51. He left Morley College in 1951 to undertake his creative pursuits independent of academic affiliation while making appearances on BBC radio and television. As a devout Pacifist, Tippett took a determined stand to uphold his convictions and endured 3 months in jail in 1943 during World War II for refusing to accept the duties assigned to him as a conscientious objector.

Tippett's early instrumental works reflect his highly individualistic style. These include Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1940), Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli (1953) and Concerto for Orchestra (1963).

His five operas show a more subjective side of his musical personality. They are The Midsummer Marriage (1955), King Priam (1962), The Knot Garden (1970), The Ice Break (1977) and New Year (1989). One observer believes that his operas share a common theme - the eternal possibility of reconciliation and renewal.

Tippett had a strong attachment to the United States and its culture. Some of his music even had world premieres in the U.S. His many visits here began in 1965 when he was invited to be a guest at the Aspen Summer School in Colorado.

For his contributions to the Arts in Great Britain, he was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1959. He was knighted in 1966 and was made a Companion of Honour in 1979. He received the Order of Merit in 1983. He died in London in 1998.

Sir Michael Tippett