A Child of Our Time

“A wartime oratorio by Michael Tippett (1905-98) with a libretto by the composer. The work was written in 1939-41 and first performed in 1944. The ‘child’ of the title is Herschel Grynspan, a Polish-Jewish student whose assassination in Paris of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath on 7 November 1938 led to the infamous Kristallnacht, a night of violence against Jews and their property on 9-10 November. Escalating official persecution followed. Tippett uses Negro spirituals at important points in the score, as Back had used the chorales in his passions. The title, stressing the universality of the story, was suggested by that of a novel (1938) by the German-Hungarian writer and diplomat Odon von Horvath (1901-38), Ein Kind unserer Zeit.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

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