Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Symphony No. 4 (Tippett)

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Michael Tippett's Symphony No. 4 was written in 1977 and first performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and conducted by Sir Georg Solti. It was dedicated to Tippett's biographer and friend, Ian Kemp.



It is written in one movement divided into seven sections:

  1. Introduction and exposition
  2. Development 1
  3. Slow movement
  4. Development 2
  5. Scherzo and trios
  6. Development 3
  7. Recapitulation

In terms of form, it combines sonata and fantasia forms, as well as that of the symphonic poem.

Tippet's periods

Tippett called the work "a birth to death piece". This is emphasized by a "breathing effect", either from tape or sampler, particularly prominent at the beginning and the end of the symphony, with a single, unaccompanied intake of breath as its conclusion.

Stylistically, the Fourth Symphony unites all previous stylistic tendencies in Tippett's work: the counterpoint and gentle lyricism of his first creative period and the angular, spiky modernism of his second period, thus creating a third and final period. Tippett quotes the opening of this Symphony in his Piano Sonata No. 4.


Tippett's score calls for a large orchestra consisting of:

  • 2 flutes (both doubling piccolos), 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon
  • 6 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 tubas
  • timpani, Percussion (requires 4 players): snare drum, tenor drum, bass drum, tom-toms, cymbals, wood block, triangle, xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, tubular bells, maracas, claves
  • harp, piano, tape or sampler (breathing effect)
  • strings
  • References

    Symphony No. 4 (Tippett) Wikipedia

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