W&N buy authorised biography of composer Michael Tippett

W&N buy authorised biography of composer Michael Tippett

Weidenfeld & Nicolson has bought the authorised biography of British composer Michael Tippett (1905–1998) by Oliver Soden, for publication in 2019.

Alan Samson, non-fiction publisher, bought world English language rights (excluding the USA, its dependencies and the Philippines) from Ian Drury at Sheil Land Associates. 

The life and work of Tippett, whose music included the oratorio "A Child of Our Time", four symphonies, five operas, among others, will be told by Soden, a writer and broadcaster who conducted many hours of interviews with Tippett’s friends and colleagues.

Soden's authorised biography will tell the full "dramatic" story of Tippett, from his mother's imprisonment as a suffragette to his own prison term at Wormwood Scrubs as a conscientious objector. The book covers his active involvement in left-wing political activities of the 1930s; his experiences during two world wars, his "often turbulent" childhood; his relationships with men and women, and his work's open portrayal of homosexuality at a time when it remained illegal; his travels and popularity in America during the decades of Cold War and the space race; and his old age, in which he developed a keen interest in television and popular culture while managing ill health and near-blindness. Said to be at the epicentre of 21st culture, he counted among his friends and colleagues Barbara Hepworth, T.S. Eliot, Benjamin Britten, W. H. Auden, E. M. Forster, Edith Sitwell and members of the Bloomsbury Group.

The book will also provide context for his "evolving and varied" music, situating Tippett within the century's wider musical, social and political narrative. 

The Tippett Estate, the Tippett Foundation, and Tippett’s partner (Meirion Bowen) have given their full support to the book, and will open a number of private archives for the first time, allowing use of letters, manuscript scores, and private audiotapes as well as a number of never-before-seen photographs, an unpublished memoir by Tippett and his brother, and newly discovered correspondence and music manuscripts. 

Samson said the book displayed "all the signs of matching its subject as an enduring modern classic".

Soden added: "Michael Tippett has been a passion since my schooldays and I am thrilled, honoured and not a little daunted to have become his biographer. A full-length book on his life is long overdue, and I hope that it will contribute to a better understanding of both the man and his music. His was truly a life of the t20th century – but one that can shine a fierce light on the 21st."