Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Double Tippett for Double String Orchestra

Michael Tippett
What could be a better accompaniment to the 2012 Olympics than that most athletic-sounding work by an Englishman (at least in its outer movements!), the Concerto for Double String Orchestra of Michael Tippett (1905-1998)?  And so I present not only the first, but also the second, recording of this piece, both, as it happens, conducted by the same man, Walter Goehr (1903-1960):

Tippett: Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1939)
String Orchestra conducted by Walter Goehr
Recorded in the summer of 1943
Schott & Co. (unnumbered), three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 54.97 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 25.25 MB)

Tippett: Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1939)
Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Walter Goehr
Recorded March 3, 1952
HMV C 7926 through C 7928, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 58.28 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 26.15 MB)

The two recordings make for a fascinating comparison.  The first one, made while Tippett was incarcerated for being a conscientious objector during the Second World War, is lean and brisk, with a quite small string body; the second one is richer in sound and broader in tempo, especially in the slow movement, which clocks in at over a minute longer than the earlier recording.  The 1943 set, which was recorded at an independent London studio (Levy's), was sold on subscription for a hefty price (42 shillings - about $8.50 at the 1945 rate of exchange).  The 1952 set was one of the last 78 sets to be issued by HMV before the advent of LP, and in fact, was reissued on LP when the 78s were withdrawn, coupled with the Rawsthorne Symphonic Studies conducted by Constant Lambert that I uploaded earlier this year.


  1. I love this work but have never heard these. Many thanks, Bryan.

  2. Interesting, also thanks for the possibility to compare the 2.

  3. Around 1960 the Moscow Chamber Orchestra toured England. As the conductor (Barshai) felt they needed a second doublebass - and there evidently wasn't one available in the Soviet Union - my friend Bob (formerly member of the CBSO, LPO and Legge's Philharmonia) was hired.

    At a concert at the Bath Festival they were joined by the Bath Festival Orchestra for a performance of this work.

    But nobody could persuade the Soviet overseers that the two orchestras were intended to be positioned antiphonally and they insisted that the MCO take "rpdie of place" on the platform *in front* of the BFO.

    The result, Bob assures me, was awful.

    Even in mono that would make a difference.

    Thanks for these.