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01 February 2018

A 'new' Tippett symphony

Some music manuscripts in the British Library collections have made an important contribution to tonight's concert by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at City Halls in Glasgow (also broadcast live on BBC Radio 3). On the programme is the first performance in over 80 years of Michael Tippett’s Symphony in B-flat. The piece was withdrawn by the composer and never published, but a new edition has been prepared (with the permission of the Tippett estate) from the only surviving sources here at the British Library – one recently catalogued score in Tippett’s own hand (MS Mus. 1757/2) and one prepared by a copyist in 1934 (Add MS 72010).

Tippett symphony

Title and dedication for Michael Tippett's unpublished Symphony in B-Flat. British Library, MS Mus. 1757/2


Tippett composed the symphony in 1933 shortly after studies with R.O. Morris and commentators have previously noted the strong influence of Sibelius in the structure and style of the piece. The composition also coincided with the Tippett’s work at Morley College, leading a course for unemployed professional musicians - some former ‘pit’ players from theatres and cinemas that no longer needed them. The orchestra formed from that course - the South London Orchestra - performed the symphony with Tippett conducting in 1934, after which it was revised. Ultimately Tippett became unhappy with it, considering it immature in comparison to his rapidly developing style. As a result the symphony was rejected and his next piece in that genre, completed in 1945, is the one he labelled his ‘no. 1’.

The autograph manuscript for this Symphony in B-flat was purchased by the British Library from the Michael Tippett Foundation in 2004 and joins a large collection of manuscripts relating to the composer here. The contents of these are listed in our online catalogue, but the links below will allow you to browse volume by volume.


Tippett collection part I (Add MS 61748-61804). 57 volumes, purchased 1980

Manuscripts of Sir Michael Tippett, covering 1934-1977

Tippett collection part II (Add MS 63820-63840). 21 volumes, purchased 1986

Manuscripts of Sir Michael Tippett, covering 1977-1983

Tippett collection part III (Add MS 71099-71103). 5 volumes, purchased 1992

Manuscripts of Sir Michael Tippett, covering 1988-1991

Tippett collection part IV (Add MS 72001-72065). 65 volumes, purchased 1994

Manuscripts and notebooks of Sir Michael Tippett, covering ca. 1923-1994

Tippett collection part V (Add MS 72066-72071). 6 volumes, purchased 1994

Early works, supplementing the collection above

MS Mus. 289-292. 4 volumes

Music manuscripts and correspondence of Sir Michael Tippett, covering 1939-[1990]

MS Mus. 1757. 6 volumes

Misc. manuscript material




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