Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986)
Complete solo piano music

Prelude and Fugue on a theme of Cyril Scott (1949)
Sonatina (1929)
Fukagawa (1929)
Introduction, Aria and Fugue (1960)
Nemo Fugue (c.1960)
Eight Preludes (1966)
Four Studies (1971)
Invention on the name of Haydn (1982)
Fantasy Fugue (1982)
Nine teaching pieces (1952)

Michael Dussek (piano)
Rachael Dussek (piano - in the Teaching Pieces)
rec Henry Wood Hall, London 29-31 Jan 2001
The recording was made with a research grant from the Royal Academy of Music.
DUTTON Epoch CDLX 7112 [61.56]
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This is not the first time we have had a collection aspiring to the complete Rubbra for solo piano. Mind you we have to wind back to circa 1979-80 for Edward Moore's Phoenix LP to find it. Dutton however carry the day and not only because theirs is the first with first CD-based collection.

The Prelude and Fugue, for me, prompted thoughts of the collana musicale of the Viola Concerto and the 'dream-dancing' of the Fifth Symphony all crossed with Bach-like fugal treatment. The Sonatina of thirty years previously probes the British pastoral-ecstatic school as reflected in the music of Rubbra's friend Gerald Finzi (the piano parts of whose Hardy songs I often thought of while listening to this piece) and the high aspirational romance of Herbert Howells. A cold douche from Bach and some really hushed music distinguish the Introduction section of the finale. Fukagawa explores an oriental theme also examined by his Buddha Suite (available on another Dutton CD). This work can best be likened to Hovhaness's In a Moss Garden. The work is very brief and ends abruptly in a rather unrounded way..

In the Introduction, Aria and Fugue the wholeness and wholesomeness of the preceding works is not altogether abandoned but other and more disturbing worlds are envisioned - cold as stone. The same goes for the Fantasy Fugue. The Preludes are a varied set. They range from the clammy peace and 'jeux d'eau' of the moderato to the oh so brief allegretto semplice - simplicity with a shiver. Then comes the dark bell-decaying realm of the Grave. The final lento e con forza is iron shod and crashes unforgivingly through the greenery ending before it has gained any real sense of direction. The Nine Teaching Pieces are all you would expect with the prizes being the gentle rondel of Slow Dance, the delectable Cradle Song and the crick-necked Catch me if you can in which you can clearly make out the donkey's braying.

There are five fugues on this disc of which the Nemo was written for the composer Freda Swain (1902-85). Swain was the organiser of the NEMO concerts. The Fantasy Fugue begins haltingly but is soon fanned into warmth. The Four Studies illustrate Rubbra's allegiance to legato, cantabile and tone control. The Haydn Invention with its Bachian patterning is hoarse and scolding.

These are all very brief works although often sententious and by no means lacking emotional-symphonic substance. Their coherence and their strengths are portrayed with extreme empathy by Michael Dussek making this a most desirable collection.

Rob Barnett

See also

Review of this CD by Gary Higginson
by Gary Higginson
Edmund Rubbra page on MusicWeb

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