Harry Wimmer

Harry's CelloBlogTM


He breezed into the Aspen rehearsal studio in his shorts, rosy-cheeked and bright-eyed
as if he had just jogged across the
Continental Divide, which he probably had.
This was
Sir Michael Tippett, since the demise of Benjamin Britten recognized as the
Dean of British composers. I encountered Tippett some time ago at the Aspen Music
Festival when I was conducting a string orchestra of young musicians and rehearsing his
Concerto for Double String Orchestra. I persuaded him to join us and share his insights.
It was a joyous occasion, described in

Fast forward to February 2012. I was sitting with my wife in our favorite seats in the
Carnegie Hall balcony, waiting with great anticipation for a performance of
"A Child of
Our Time," his now rarely heard oratorio.

This was a very emotional experience for me personally, not only because this
deeply felt work reaches deep into one's emotional core, but also because, as a
very young child in Vienna, I was old enough to experience the impact of the monstrous
Kristallnacht, the turning point in the Nazis' quest for the Final Solution.

Others have written eloquently about the historical aspects of Kristallnacht (The Night
of Broken Glass), how the regime used the tragedy of the assassination of a German
consular official in Paris by a hapless, momentarily deranged Polish Jewish boy to scorch
and loot thousands of synagogues and businesses throughout Germany and Austria.

What sets Tippett's contribution apart is that, as a lifelong
pacifist, he is able to forgive
(not forget), forgive the misguided young perpetrator but also forgive the inhuman Nazi
brutes. He is able to turn this masterpiece into a condemnation of oppression linking the
Black and Jewish experience) and, in the end, with great optimism, point the way to
universal brotherhood.

"A Child of Our Time" could be considered Tippett's crowning achievement, not only
for the emotional impact of its message but aso because of the consummate skill with
which he uses chorus, orchestra and soloists to present that message. The opening brass
chords and murmuring strings send chills up your spine and tears to your eyes, presaging
what is yet to come: a wondrous tapestry of earth shaking events set brilliantly to music.
I have also never heard American
spirituals orchestrated and presented with greater
beauty and impact than in this major 20th Century work, indeed "A WORK of Our Time."
The Collegiate Chorale, the soloists and the American Symphony conducted by James
Bagwell all performed with the greatest dedication and involvement.

I feel honored to have met this fine man, Michael Tippett, if only briefly, in the Aspen
mountains many years ago.


This blog created, written and maintained by Harry Wimmer (
Thanks to Shirley Givens
sgivens@juilliard.edu for her imaginative illustrations.
Design and content ©2006, 2007, 2012 by Harry Wimmer, Incidental Artwork ©2006, 2007, 2012 by Shirley Givens.
All materials on this blog are limited to personal, non-commercial use.

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CHARLIE CHAPLIN - Left-handed Cellist
and Composer

Confessions of a Would-be Page Turner
The Concert As A Meal
The N.Y.Times Misses Out Again! Quack!


BRAHMS: Sonata in E Flat Op.120 No.2 (Live)

MENDELSSOHN: Sonata No. 1 in B Flat (Live)

CHAPLIN-WIMMER: "Oh, That Cello! (Live)


PAGANINI Cantabile (Live)


The Virtuoso by Wilhelm Busch
The Cello Concerto (anon.)
Young Itzhak Perlman in Aspen
Leonard Rose in Colo.Springs
String Portraits by Shirley Givens
Bach's C Minor Suite Was Written This Morning.
Pablo Casals From Afar
Michael Tippett Arrives inShorts
Casals Lives On in Puerto Rico
The Golden Treasure of San Juan
Bach on the Bayou


Bio from the"Joy of Cello Playing" website

Michael Tippett (1905 - 1998)