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Symphony No. 10 Sinfonia da Camera premiere recording, Improvisations on Virginal pieces by Giles Farnaby premiere recording, A Tribute premiere recording Bournemouth Sinfonietta/Hans-Hubert Schönzeler   CHANDOS COLLECT CHAN6599 [39.34]

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Review by Rob Barnett:-

The discreet level of hiss on this digitally remastered disc betrays its analogue origins. This is only apparent when driven at high volumes or when listening on headphones . The intrinsic sound is a model of clarity although the high strings show some signs of stress due to their July 1976 vintage. The original tapes were taken down at Southampton's Guildhall one the Bournemouth Sinfonietta's regular haunts.

The symphony shows all the signs of inwardness and reflection that we expect from Rubbra with, at 5.50 onwards, some extremely Sibelian woodwind writing. The work has much of the character of a prayer and little (in fact nothing) of the showman about it. There is a tape blip at 10.55 in the middle of the oboe song that arches over that section of work. A lovely violin solo soars out of the background of polyphonic threads at 14.30 reminiscent of Gerald Finzi's Introit. The work is subtle arch of meditation completely eschewing anything dramatic or heroic; that seems to have been reserved for his next symphony which is of course for full orchestra.

A Tribute (originally Introduction and Danza alla fuga) was written for Vaughan Williams on his 70th birthday and partners similar works by six other British composers approached for this purpose by the BBC. We hear about Finzi and Lambert's contributions. What were the other works? The Rubbra is in sharp contrast to the turbulent heroism of the Fourth Symphony dating from the year previous. The work does not emulate RVW's style at all and there is no reason why it should.

The Farnaby Improvisations were written at the behest of Rubbra's publishers as a lighter weight work less costly to produce and more accessible to a wider audience. The performance is alert and classically bright-eyed; rather Stravinskian in a neo-classical sense though by no means desiccated. There are five movements. The Conceit (I) seems rather contrived-archaic to my ears and just a bit superficial (not a quality I associate with Rubbra). The second movement (His Dreame) is a gem of restful beauty. His Humour has a glinting Pulcinella brightness. The glum Loth to Depart has a low profile. The final Tell me Daphne is arch though delicate. Parallel works in the English sphere are Warlock's Capriol and, more to the point, Moeran's Serenade.

The playing time is rather short but this is compensated for by the composer's own notes (as always rather unforthcoming on biographical background) and by pointed and sensitive performances by a conductor who went on to record Rubbra's Fifth Symphony with an Australian orchestra. I wonder if there are other Schönzeler Rubbra tapes in existence? If so I would like to hear him in something with greater emotional emphasis than the present works, affectingly done as they are.

This is for Rubbra aficionados rather than the place from which to launch a journey of discovery.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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