Matthew Halls on "A Child of our Time"
Future Artistic Director Matthew Halls graciously took the time to sit down with OBF to discuss his thoughts on conducting Tippett's masterpiece, A Child of our Time July 6-7.
"The influence of Bach's St. Matthew Passion on "A Child of our Time" is fundamental to our understanding of Tippett's great masterpiece. The composer found in Bach's Passion a perfect structure with which to breathe new life into the contemplative form of the oratorio. "A Child of our Time" follows the traditional Bachian pattern of Chorus, Aria, Recitative and Congregational Chorale. Several of the virtuosos fugal choruses are instantly recognizable as being directly related to the powerful choral outbursts at crucial points during the Bach Passions."
"Tippett searched for a contemporary equivalent to the Lutheran Chorale - something that would draw in the audience at key points during the piece and serve to dissipate the tension. He found the perfect solution in the Spiritual, having been particularly struck by a performance of "Steal Away" on the radio. These hauntingly beautiful pieces, involving practically everybody on stage, resonate powerfully with audiences today. They seem to reach out to the collective subconscious in such a way as to unite us all in the major themes of the work."
"Whilst Tippett's work is not 'religious' in the same way that Bach's Passion settings are, the themes are universal ones. The central theme of compassion for the persecuted and oppressed represent a common thread and Tippett felt a strong desire to express this through music at a time when Europe was once again staring into the abyss at the outbreak of another war. After disillusionment with communism (as a direct reaction against the fascism that was beginning to take hold over Europe) Tippett found great solace in the Pacifist ideals of Gandhi. "A Child of our Time" provided the composer with a voice to speak out against the atrocities of his age - a very personal journey towards some sort of reconciliation and hope."