ORATORIO: A Child of Our Time (1939-41) by Michael Tippett

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  • Created by: Zoe5
  • Created on: 06-06-16 07:07

Part 2: The Persecutors & the Persecuted

Vocal textures

  • Solo parts: soprano (mother), solo (son), alto (aunt), bass (uncle)
  • Interaction between chorus 1 (persecutors) & chorus 2 (persecuted): call & response, imitation, unison octaves
  • Bar 41: monophonic- chorus 2 only
  • SA and TB in 3rds
  • Bass solo: recitative-like, declamatory, narrator, tonally ambiguous

Vocal lines

  • Short phrases reflect the urgency of the text ("Away with them!")
  • Falling semitonal sighs ("Why")
  • Syllabic e.g. bars 66-83
  • Melisma and rising figure in tenor solo (son) "Mother!"
  • Overlapping of choirs = increased desperation of victims / fury of mob
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Part 2: The Persecutors & the Persecuted

Harmony & Tonality

  • C# minor, with added 2nds, 4ths, 6ths and 7ths (b40-54)
  • Extended plagal cadence- resignation 
  • Open 5ths on C# end on octave G#s (b40-54)
  • C major (b66-83)- occasional flattened 7th (e.g. b69) gives Mixolydian feel 
  • Soprano solo simple harmony: I-IV-V
  • Falling chromatics: tenor solo, brass (during alto solo)
  • Bass solo moves towards Eb minor
  • Three simple string chords to end: Dm7, Fm7, G7


  • Legato string accompaniment, clarinet outlines vocal part of soprano solo
  • Viola doubles alto solo, trombone doubles bass solo
  • Sighing quaver figure in oboe then later clarinet (bars 107-114) 
  • Imitative brass adds to urgency (during 2nd tenor solo)
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CONTEXT "A Child of Our Time" (1939-41) Tippett

  • A young Polish Jew left desperate by the persecution of his family and race in general by the Nazis shot a junior diplomat at the German embassy.
  • 3 days later the Germans killed over 90 Jews, burned down synagogues and arrested over 30,000 more- Crystal Night
  • Walks through some of the key events in Grynszpan's story
  • Not a detailed documentary of the events themselves, Tippett addresses the human conditions surrounding the events: brutality, alienation, violence, resilience, passion, nurturing
  • Avoids reference to specific groups- speaks universally- blames no one
  • Draws on the telling of Christ's life and crucifiction in Handel's Messiah- 3 parts like it
  • Interested in psychology (Jung's shadow and light), refers to seasons at the start of each of the three sections
  • Other influences come from African slaves (N America)- uses spirituals
  • Roles of soloists and chorus are not operatic, nobody stays in character throughout although traits are identified
  • Near the end of the WHOLE work the singers come together on the words "Shadow and light" allowing for resolution
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