Tippett, who lived a long career covering most of the previous century (until 1998), wrote many instrumental works but was fully engaged with vocal music, including the writing of his own texts. The subtitle of his strictly orchestral The Rose Lake is “A song without words for orchestra.” It was one of his last works and was intended to evoke an experience he had visiting an unusual lake in Senegal with that name. The lake changes color from greenish to pink under the noonday sun. The piece flows continually built on a theme and variations structure, but has five main sections running from “The Lake begins to sing” to “The Lake sings itself to sleep.” A variety of percussion highlights the richly-scored work, which is well-served by Chandos’ surround sound.
Tippett’s major operatic effort was The Midsummer Marriage, and from the score he took four ritual instrumental dances which were spotted thruout the opera. In them one of the characters – a dancer who neither sings nor speaks in the opera – is being pursued by a female dancer. To escape he assumes the form of different animals, and in the fourth dance he sacrifices himself in fire. Tippett explored both psychology and literature in the creation of his scenarios and texts. (One might wonder if abnormal psychology was involved…) There are brief Preludes and Transformations that pave the way for each of the four dances proper. Musically the work really works – it’s some of the composer’s most exciting orchestral music. I don’t count Tippett among my favorites by any means, but this piece certainly stands out – especially in such involving surround sonics. Would be most interesting to see a ballet ensemble perform the work.
– John Sunier