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EDGAR BAINTON Symphony No. 2 in D minor HUBERT CLIFFORD Symphony 1940 JOHN GOUGH Serenade for small Orchestra   BBCPO/Vernon Handley  CHANDOS CHAN 9757 [73 min]

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Bainton's Symphony No. 2 in D minor was completed in 1939 in Australia. The piece nevertheless used sketches made in about 1933 when Bainton planned a tone poem based on Swinburne's poem Thalassa. These sketches were taken out in 1939 and expanded into a sizeable multi-sectional work cast in one single movement and roughly adhering to the traditional symphonic model. This fairly impressive, warmly romantic work is nevertheless "an end rather than a beginning" (Lewis Foreman). Bainton's Second Symphony has many powerful moments such as the slow introduction building to a first mighty climax. This is followed by some scherzo-like sections with some heavily pounding bass drum strokes which have a menacing effect that reminds us that the work was completed in 1939. The succeeding slow sections open with a Baxian "shimmering orchestra" (Lewis Foreman) and after reaching some climaxes lead into a fairly impressive, majestic peroration. Though overtly romantic the music at times has echoes of Bax and Moeran. Though no shattering masterpiece Bainton's Second is still a beautiful piece of music, superbly written, that has its impressive moments and that unquestionably deserves more than the occasional hearing. Hubert Clifford's Symphony 1940 completed at about the same time as Bainton's Second is another impressive achievement by a composer whose stature as "serious composer" has still to be re-appraised. This ambitious, though not flawless work has much to commend itself. Its four movements follow the traditional symphonic pattern with a short scherzo placed second followed by a weighty slow movement that really is the heart of the symphony. The first movement, which Clifford described as "epic", opens with much energy and achieves a considerable momentum before ending on "a questioning horn call" which leaves the argument unresolved. The slightly grotesque scherzo that follows somewhat relaxes the tension accumulated in the course of the first movement. As already mentioned the slow movement is the longest and the weightiest as well of the whole work. The pastoral mood of its opening soon gives way to a more elegiac, at times troubled mood building to some tremendous climaxes before calming down to the opening mood. The last movement has the same rhythmic energy as the first movement. Tension builds up again until the final peroration is reached. Then the central theme from the first movement, now given out by trumpets, is superimposed over the end of the symphony "in effect shaking a defiant fist at heaven and would-be oppressors" (Lewis Foreman). Clifford's music has echoes of Walton and Bliss but is still personal enough to retain attention from first to last. No mean achievement indeed by a composer who obviously put much of his most intimate self into this powerfully evocative music. This unusual release is completed by John Gough's short, Delius-like Serenade for Small Orchestra written in 1931 for Hubert Clifford's wedding.

This is the kind of release that should appeal to any member for this is really what the Society is aiming at and looking for, i.e. high quality performances and recordings of unfamiliar byways of the British symphonic tradition to which the Australian-born Hubert Clifford unquestionably belongs.

The BBC Philharmonic marvellously support Vernon Handley's committed readings of these impressive, though long forgotten symphonies. Unreservedly recommended.


Hubert Culot

see also earlier review by Rob Barnett


Hubert Culot

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