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NYT obituary

 

New York Times Friday Jan 9 1998

Sir Michael Tippett, a composer of vision and inventiveness who was considered one of Britain's most important contemporary musical talents, has died. He was 93.

Tippett died Thursday at his west London home after suffering from pneumonia for two months, Meirion Bowen, his manager and biographer, announced Friday. The composer became ill on a trip to Stockholm for a 12-day festival of his music.

Tippett's works included opera, choral, orchestral, chamber and piano music, and fused strong rhythms, jazz, spirituals, madrigal-like counterpoint and imaginative new sounds like the wind machine that ends his Fourth Symphony.

Some considered his music difficult to play, and his individualism and modernity inevitably attracted criticism. But he endured to become one of the leading figures of British 20th-century music, along with his late colleagues Benjamin Britten and Sir William Walton.

Tippett's most famous work, the oratorio ``A Child of Our Time, was begun days after the outbreak of World War II and grew out of his outrage at the world's apathy to the plight of Jewish refugees.

Using Handel's ``Messiah'' and Bach's Passions as a foundation, he substituted Negro spirituals for the traditional Lutheran chorales. The piece, first performed in 1944, was described in Newsweek magazine three decades later as ``something Handel might have written had he lived in the age of Auschwitz.''


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