A complete early symphony written and then abandoned by Michael Tippett will be heard for the first time in over eighty years when it is performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra next year.
Although the Symphony in B-flat received at least five performances in the 1930s, the composer later believed his compositional voice had moved on and he made no attempts to have it published or performed, preferring instead to call his 1945 symphony his First.
The B-flat symphony was composed in 1933 and Tippett stood by it for around a decade; but its publication was hampered by the Second World War, which brought paper shortages and made relations with his German publisher difficult. Attempts at further performances, in a revised version made in 1938, came to nothing and by the time peace was declared, Tippett no longer considered the work to be consistent with his developed compositional voice.
The BBC SSO’s performance on Thursday 1 February 2018, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, has been prepared using a recently discovered manuscript score and incorporates Tippett’s final set of revisions to the piece - never previously performed – allowing for the symphony to be heard as its composer intended. It will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
Conductor Martyn Brabbins says, “No composer comes in to the world as a fully formed symphonist. Even with such recognised Symphonic Masters as Beethoven and Mahler one can see a very clear evolution throughout their composing careers, and their first Symphonic utterances, as compelling as they certainly are, cannot honestly be viewed as fully formed Mahler or Beethoven! Tippett is no exception to this, and it will be fascinating to hear the early symphony, knowing as we do what a great symphonist Tippett later became. It is akin to finding that elusive last piece of a jigsaw puzzle, finally revealing the complete picture of Tippett the symphonist.”
The performance of the B Flat Symphony concludes the BBC SSO’s two-season exploration of Tippett’s symphonies with Brabbins. In early 2017, Brabbins and the orchestra recorded Tippett’s Symphonies 1 and 2 for BBC Radio 3 and Hyperion, which will be commercially released on 29 December 2017. On Thursday 18 January 2018 the orchestra continues the cycle, performing Tippett’s Symphony No.4, and concluding with the performance of Tippett’s Symphony in B flat on 1 February 2018.
The BBC SSO is very grateful that The Tippett Foundation has given its agreement to the revival of the early Symphony.