Piano Sonata No. 2 : Work information
- Work name
- Piano Sonata No. 2
- Work number
- 1962-00-00 02:00:00
- Simon Lawman
- Bob Auger
- Recording date
Michael (Kemp) Tippett
Born in London, he studied at the Royal College of Music, taking composition from Wood, piano from Raymar and conducting from Boult and Sargent. Taught and conducted after graduating in 1928, leading the South London Orchestra between 1933 and 1940, subsequently serving as director of music at the orchestra’s home, Morley College. One of his first major works was to prove his most popular; A Child of our Time (1941) was an oratorio inspired by current events, specifically the assassination of a German politician by a Jewish boy in 1938. This storyline was augmented by Tippett’s inclusion of arrangements of religious African-American songs; the Five Negro Spirituals are frequently performed separately.
Tippett’s political convictions had serious repercussions; as a conscientious objector he refused to further the war effort even outside the army. As a result he spent two months in Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1943. He regained the respect of the establishment after the war with activity with the BBC and the direction of the Bath Festival between 1969 and 1974. He received a CBE in 1959 and was knighted in 1966.
Romantic without the conservatism that might imply in a post-war composer, Tippett’s music is lyrical and frequently grand. His Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1939) and his Fantasia Concertanti on a Theme by Corelli (1953) are among his most popular orchestral works, and his operas, for which he writes his own libretti, have had international success.
In 1984 Sir Michael Tippett wrote:
The work issues from certain procedures in the orchestral piano part of 'King Praim', and from the formal dramatic structure of that opera. I have used two short quotations from this piano part to build two sections of the piano sonata. But the form of the sonata is the more important derivation.
Everything in the sonata proceeds by statement. The effect is one of accumulation; through constant addition of new material; by variation and repetition. There is virtually no development and particularly no bridge passages. The formal unity comes from the balance of similarities and contrasts.
The contrasts are the straightforward ones of timbres and speeds. but there are also contrasts of function. Music can appear to flow; or to arrest itself especially through the device of ostinato; or temporarily to stop. in a silence. These kinds of contrasts are used constantly.
Because the work is for one player and one instrument there is little opportunity for the 'climax' of a 'jam session', i.e. when the contrasting sections, or bits from them, instead of being just sequential, are made to appear together. These 'climaxes' (there are several in 'King Priam') are more appropriate to an orchestral piece in this form. But the sonata nevertheless has a kind of 'climax' coda where the bits of addition and repetition are made very small and the resulting mosaic therefore made more intense.
Sonata No. 2 is dedicated to and was first perforomed by Margaret Kitchin.