• Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Moving into Aquarius (1984)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society with funds from the Arts Council

Written jointly with Thea Musgrave in honour of Sir Michael Tippett on his 80th birthday

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  • 14 min

Programme Note

When Thea Musgrave and I each received a letter asking us to collaborate in writing a work in honour of Sir Michael Tippett’s eightieth birthday, our initial reaction was one of surprise and a certain disbelief. Although we have been friends and colleagues for over thirty years, the idea seemed somewhat bizarre. However, each of us started to consider how such a work could be written, and after several letters and phone calls we decided to undertake the commission, since we were both anxious to honour Sir Michael and since the idea of a jointly composed work did exert a certain fascination. We made a few decisions immediately - firstly that the piece should not be a series of variations on a theme of Tippett nor merely a festive Divertissement, and secondly that we ourselves wanted to preserve a strict anonymity. So, for example, the person who copied the full score of a section is not necessarily the person who wrote it.

A meeting in New York City gave rise to a formal plan for the work. We decided that we would start from a small group of thematic fragments taken from Tippett’s music, and that the piece would consist of six contrasted sections framed and linked by four chords each contained within a minor seventh based on C natural.

We used the following quotations from Tippett’s music, by kind permission of Messrs Schott & Co Ltd:

1. The passage for three horns which opens the Ritual Dances from the Midsummer Marriage.

2. The four repeated Cs from the first movement of the Second Symphony.

3. The chromatic viola theme which opens the second of the Ritual Dances.

4. The negro spiritual Go Down With Moses which Tippett uses in A Child of Our Time and which Thea Musgrave uses in her recently completed opera Harriet, the Woman called Moses.

5. The short polyphonic passage for four horns which concludes the slow movement of Tippett’s Second Symphony

6. The cello theme from the third movement of the Concerto for Double String Orchestra.

There are also certain ‘hidden’ quotes from other works by Tippett.

The descriptions of the six sections which we decided upon for ourselves, though they are not marked as such in the score, are:

i) Dreamy
ii) Scherzo
iii) Lyrical
iv) Giocoso
v) Sombre
vi) Rumbustious

At the end of the last section the four chords are swiftly reprised by the four horns.

The title of this collaboration is taken from Tippett’s book of the same name.