“Tippett”: 6 CD-compilation with Piano Sonatas No. 1-3 (Paul Crossley 1973), Fanfare for Brass (Philip Jones Brass Ensemble 1976), Sonata for four horns (Barry Tuckwell Horn Quartet 1967), String Quartets 1-3 (Lindsay Quartet 1975), Fantasie Concertante on a Theme of Corelli, Concerto for Double String Orchestra, Little Music for String Orchestra (Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Neville Marriner 1970), Ritual Dances (Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, John Pritchard 1957), Triple Concerto (György Pauk, Nobuko Imai, Ralph Kirshbaum 1981), Concerto for Orchestra, Symphonies 1 -3 (Heather Harper in #3, London Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis 1964, 1967, 1975, 1973), Symphony No. 4, Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles (Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Georg Solti 1979, 1981). Decca 475 6750 (2005) barcode 028947567509
A good place to start
8 March 2022
If you are not already a Tippett collector and don’t have the material gathered on this 6-CD collection, on previously published individual CDs, this is where to start your Tippett collection.
The set compiles a number of great Decca and Philips recordings mostly from the 1970s, in great sound. Most but not all were previously released on CD, and those that weren’t, and find here their first (and, it turns out, only) CD-release, are tantalizing and frustrating for the seasoned collector.
Best case in point are the Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-3 recorded by Paul Crossley in June 1973 (CD 1). They came out in 1974 on LP Philips 6500 534, were not reissued to CD before this compilation, and were never thereafter. Crossley commissioned and premiered the Third, and premiered the Fourth (not on the compilation), he worked closely with the composer and has therefore unique legitimacy in that repertoire. A decade later he recorded the four, on CRD 34301 (link will open new tab to my review), but it’s great to hear is “first thoughts” on the matter. That said, his interpretations haven’t changed significantly in the intervening years, see my review of the CRD remake for the comparative details.
First and only CD reissue is also the case with the Sonata for Four Horns, recorded at Kingsway Hall on April 27, 1967, originally published on LP Argo ZRG 535 as a complement to the Second Symphony. Same with the Ritual Dances from the opera The Midsummer Marriage, recorded by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden under John Pritchard on 27 and 31 October 1957 (CD 5).
On the other hand the Fanfare No. 1 for brass by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble in 1976 (CD 1) – a premiere recording, back then – has known a lot of CD reissues, the first in 1992 on the improbable label Marcophon CD 927-2, barcode 7640104269274 or 885444065309 (with the complete program of fanfares from the original LP). Likewise, the String Quartets Nos. 1-3 (CD 2), recorded at All Saints’ Church, Peterhsam, 9-11 June 1975 and originally on LP L’Oiseau-Lyre DSLO10 (CD 2), were first reissued to CD in 1989 on Decca 425 645-2, barcode 028942564527. They were picked up in 1996 by ASV, on a two-CD set, CD DCS 231 barcode 743625023121, with the composer’s 4th and 5th Quartets, previously released by ASV on separate CDs. As Crossley, The Lindsays have unique legitimacy in Tippett’s music, for having worked closely with the composer and premiered Nos. 4 and 5 , although I marginally prefer the readings of the Britten Quartet, originally on Collins Classics Collins Classics 70062, barcode 5012106700628 (but unfortunately they didn’t record the 5th).
The recordings of Neville Marriner conducting his Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields (Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli and Concerto for Double String Orchestra on CD 3, Little Suite for String Orchestra on CD 4) were made on 26-28 October 1970 at St. John’s, Smith Square. Originally published on LP Argo ZRG 680, they were first reissued to CD in 1989 on London “The British Collection” 421 389-2, barcode 028942138926. In 2006 there was an augmented reissue n Australian Eloquence / Decca 476 7960, barcode 028947679608, with the addition of Colin Davis’ recording of Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles with the London Symphony Orchestra from December 1975, never before or after reissued (it is Georg Solti’s later recording with the Chicago Symphony that is gathered on the present set), and the same Fanfare for brass as here. Marriner’s recording was important for ushering in a new interpretive paradigm in these works, spacious, lush and pastoral, that was followed by many thereafter, where the earlier versions conducted by Tippett himself in 1964 (Corelli Fantasia, with Menuhin and his Bath Festival Orchestra) and by Rudolf Barshai in 1962 leading the combined forces of his Moscow Chamber Orchestra and the Bath Festival Orchestra (Concerto for Double String Orchestra), had been uniquely urgent, vehement and passionate. Both pieces are collected on an equally indispensable twofer with Tippett’s Piano Concerto and first two Piano Sonatas performed by John Ogdon, EMI 7 63522 2 (link will open new tab to my review).
Colin Davis was a great champion of Tippett and his recordings are indispensable in a Tippett collection. The 1963 Concerto for Orchestra (CD 6) and 1979 Triple Concerto (CD 3) are magnificent works. They were recorded by Davis respectively in 1964 and 1981, and were paired on an early Philips CD from 1988, Philips 420 781-2, barcode 028942078123.
The Symphonies (1-3 by Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, from 1967 to 1975; the 4th by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Solti in 1979), on CDs 4, 5 and 6, were first reissued to CD in 1989 on a 3-CD set, London 425 646-2, barcode 028942564626, with the Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles – Solti’s recording). The competition here and comes from Richard Hickox‘ complete traversal with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on Chandos, but those should be taken as complements – indispensable for the seasoned Tippett fan – rather than first choices. They originally came out on four separate CDs, filled with significant orchestral complements: Symphony No. 1 with the Piano Concerto on 9333 barcode 095115933329, Symphony No. 2 on 9276 with the Orchestral Suite from the opera New Year (095115929926), Symphony No. 3 on 9276 with Praeludium (095115927625), Symphony No. 4 on 9233 with Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli and Fantasia on a Theme of Handel (095115923320), and were later gathered on the 3-CD set Chandos 9500-02 (1996) barcode 095115950029 and 10330 (2005) barcode 095115133026.
Of course, while the set provides a great start, the Tippett fan will also be missing some significant pieces, even limiting myself to the instrumental and orchestral compositions which are the scope of this compilation. To go further, said fan will need to complement the set with a few other CDs, even at the risk of some duplication – and duplication is not a risk, but an ear-opener, when the interpretations are sufficiently contrasted, as with the EMI recordings mentioned above of the Corelli-Fantasy and Concerto for Double String Orchestra.
For The Blue Guitar, Tippett’s fine contribution (from 1983) to the solo instrument, there are so many options, see my complete Tippett discography to know which (link below), but one may want to favor, or at least start with, the world premiere broadcast recording (December 1 1984) by dedicatee and premier performer Julian Bream, belatedly released by Testament on SBT 1333 (2005), barcode 749677133320 (with works of Bach, Sor, Turina, Schubert). But my reference here is Craig Ogden on Nimbus NI 5390 (“Tippett The Blue Guitar” with works of Britten, Richard Rodney Bennett, Walton, Lennox Berkeley), barcode 083603539023 or 710357539022 (1995).
The 4th Piano Sonata can be found in a great reading by Nicholas Unwin on Metier MSV CD92009 (1995), with great pieces by Robert Saxton and Colin Matthews (Unwin also made an excellent recording of the first three Sonatas on Chandos 9468)
As with Bream in The Blue Guitar, the most “legitimate” choice in Quartets 4 & 5 would be the Lindsay Quartet, which entails the acquisition of two CDs, ASV CD DCA 608 (barcode 5011975060826) with Britten’s 3rd String Quartet, and ASV CD DCA 879 (barcode 743625087925), with works of Christopher Brown, Purcell, R.O. Harris and Charles Wood. (1993). But another choice implying only one CD is the Kreutzer Quartet on Chandos 9560, barcode 95115956021 (“String Quartets vol. 2”), with the bonus of String Quartets No. 2.
The Piano Concerto is a great and original piece, quite unique among the 20th century piano concertos. I’ve referenced above the EMI twofer which reissues John Ogdon’s and Colin Davis’ recording along with Ogdon’s recordings of the first two Piano Sonatas and other great EMI recordings from the 1960s – an acquisition as indispensable to the Tippett beginner (and the staunch Tippett follower as well) as the present Decca set – not “despite the duplications” when they happen, but because of them. But the best presentation today of both the Piano Concerto and the four Sonatas (and with Tippett’s other concertante work for piano to boot, the Fantasia on a Theme of Handel), is the 2007 Hyperion two-CD set by Steven Osborne and Martyn Brabbins.
Finally, The Rose Lake is Tippett’s valedictory composition (1993), and Tippett champion Colin Davis recorded it with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1997. It is on Conifer 75605 51304-2, paired with Tippett’s own 1971 recording of his oratorio for baritone, chorus and orchestra “The Vision of Saint Augustine”, barcode 756055130420, same pairing reissued in 2004 on BMG RCA Red Seal/Catalyst 82876 64284-2, barcode 828766428421
For more Tippett, see my comprehensive discography (link will open new tab to pdf document that you can read online and/or download).