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Work of the Week – Sir Michael Tippett: The Rose Lake

On 17 April, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis will perform Sir Michael Tippett’s The Rose Lake (1991-93) at the Barbican in London. The work was originally premiered in 1995 following the request of Sir Colin Davis for a new orchestral piece to celebrate the composer’s 90th birthday.

The Rose Lake, which was the final orchestral work the composer would complete, was inspired by a lake Tippett visited while on holiday in Sengal in 1990. The lake itself is renowned for its remarkable pink hue – the result of an algae present in the water which produces a red pigment that is able to absorb light. Tippett’s visit to the lake had a profound effect on the composer who drew on the experience when he began composing The Rose Lake in 1991.

The Rose Lake: ‘A song without words for orchestra’

In many ways Tippett’s work parallels Debussy’s La Mer in so much that it is an expression of experience rather than a literal representation of the lake. Writer Oliver Soden, whose major new biography of Tippett is released this month, describes the work in his programme note as the composer’s attempt to ‘capture the dappled interplay between water and light and colour, and to chart a progression from dawn to dusk’.

At midday the impact of the sun was such as to transform its whitish green colour to whitish pink […]. As things turned out we reached Le Lac Rose at midday, just in time to see it turn a marvellous translucent pink. The sight of it triggered a profound disturbance within me: the sort of disturbance which told me that the new orchestral work had begun. – Michael Tippett

Following his performance of The Rose Lake, Sir Andrew Davis will conduct a performance of the Tippett’s Piano Concerto (1953-55) on 25 April 2019 with pianist Steven Osborne and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Further performances of Tippett’s music this season include his oratorio A Child of Our Time (1939-41) by the Philharmonia Orchestra (26 May 2019), Five Spirituals (1939-41/1996) at Aldeburgh Festival (17 June 2019), and Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1938-39) with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner on 19 and 20 June 2019.



Photo: „Lac rose au Sénégal“ of Abrahami at Wikimedia Commons under the licence CC BY-SA 4.0, original was changed before using