Michael Tippet. A Child of Our Time, oratorio
Led by maestro Gintaras Rinkevičius, the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra opens its 31st concert season with A Child of Our Time oratorio by one of the most prominent 20th-century British composers, Michael Tippett (1905–98). The composer started writing the work on 1 September 1939, when Britain declared war on Germany and the Second World War broke out. The piece was inspired by earlier events that had affected Tippett profoundly: the assassination in 1938 of a German diplomat by a young Jewish refugee, and the Nazi government's reaction in the form of a violent pogrom against its Jewish population, known as Kristallnacht. Tippett was a pacifist; he wrote his work in response to the fascism, persecution of innocent people and European disunity of the time, encapsulating in it all his political, moral and psychological concerns. He was also a proponent of Jungian psychoanalysis, which he underwent in the years immediately before setting to work on the oratorio; the libretto's recurrent themes of light and shadow clearly resonate with the philosophy.
The oratorio uses a traditional three-part format based on that of Handel's Messiah and is structured in the manner of Bach's Passions. Among the work's most intriguing features is Tippett's use of African-American spirituals, which carry out the role allocated by Bach to chorales as hymns to freedom in a certain way. Almost eighty years on from its first performance, the oratorio still speaks profoundly to us; A Child of Our Time is still of our time.
This special performance of Tippett's oratorio brings together two brilliant Lithuanian soloists of the highest calibre, soprano Lauryna Bendžiūnaitė and mezzo-soprano Ieva Prudnikovaitė, Kaunas State Choir (led by Petras Bigelis) and Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra conducted by its founder, artistic director and principal conductor, a National Prize winner, Professor Gintaras Rinkevičius.