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Sir Georg Solti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Sir Michael Tippett‘s Fourth Symphony on October 6, 1977. A longtime friend of Sir Georg, the composer was in Chicago for the rehearsals and performances.

Tippett conceived the symphony in a single movement, and the instrumentation was one of the largest he had used to date. From Arrand Parsons‘s program note:

“Always original and inventive, Tippett has realized a special formal design for the Symphony which follows its own musical course. In brief summary, the work as a whole is built from three tempos, each with its own thematic idea. These three tempos are introduced in succession as the first division of the work; they then are repeated, not literally, and to each one a new thematic element is added, thus creating the second division. Tempo I introduces the third division and the music moves into a long and florid oboe solo, continued by the English horn, to make the equivalent of the slow movement of the Symphony. The ideas are then developed for division four, and there is a grand pause. Tempo III is elaborated into the equivalent of the scherzo (division five), with fragmented thematic elements ‘light, flying,’ and there evolves an elaborate fugal section which leads into another grand climax. After this, for division six, there is a recapitulation of the tempos, again varied, and a calm and tranquil passage diminishes to ‘nothing.’ This is the overall view of the events of the Symphony with its structurally placed climaxes.”

Solti and Sir Michael Tippett discuss a detail in the score - Orchestra Hall, October 1977


Solti and the Orchestra recorded Tippett’s Fourth Symphony on October 29, 1979, at Medinah Temple. For London Records, the recording was produced by James Mallinson and James Lock was the engineer.

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