Rubbra has rather a
severe reputation and, make no mistake,
there is some justification for this.
That justification is down to elements
quite different however from those establishing
the severity of serious contemporaries
such as Alan Bush and Alan Rawsthorne.
While Rubbra found little musical attraction
in frivolity yet he joys in fly-away
delight and there is of course towering
grandeur and majesty in these pages.
The disc opens with
the violin Improvisation in
which Osostowicz is the passionate pilgrim.
The bewitching and sweetly insinuating
solo line leads us through a dark forest.
Without producing a clearly delineated
melody the effect remains melodic rising
to passionate statement and falling
back to the mesmerising yet unassertive
soliloquising that opened this single
movement work. In emotional schema the
piece parallels an even more impressive
work - the nocturnal and darkly rhapsodic
Soliloquy for cello and orchestra
of which we now have recordings by Dupré
Classics), Rohan de Saram (Lyrita)
and best of all, though the most difficult
to find, Raphael Sommer on BBC Radio
This is the first recording
of the Improvisation on CD although
there was a Louisville LP in which Paul
Kling was the soloist. That is a significant
recording because the artists commissioned
the work. There is some hope that this
recording will reappear on Matt Walters'
First Edition label. Would that someone
had recorded Andrew Watkinson’s fine
1981 broadcast with the BBC Concerto
Orchestra conducted by Richard Hickox.
As an entr'acte of
sorts we have the Farnaby Improvisations.
I confess this is not the sort of Rubbra
I favour. There is about it too much
of pressed flowers and a precious contrived
‘olde worlde’ flavour. However in His
Dreame Rubbra probes deeper while
the jackanapes jollity of His Humour
carries the seeds of the playful
ring-dance collana musicale we
hear in the concertos for viola and
The Farnaby resurrections
have been recorded before and can be
heard,not as well recorded, and not
quite as well pointed as here. The first
CD recording was by Hans-Hubert Schönzeler
with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta in
1976 (first issued on LP). Its rather
miserly CD incarnation comes on Chandos
CHAN 6599 playing for 39:34. There the
‘short commons’ coupling - perfectly
adequate for LP of course - was A
Tribute and the Tenth Symphony.
The Violin Concerto
has the same dark concentration
as the Improvisation. Hearing
the two side by side, the Improvisation
sounds like a concerto movement
- Rubbra limbering up for the concerto
that he was to write four years later.
It has become a commonplace but the
Violin Concerto has little or no surface
glamour and the little burst of xylophone
in the finale is all the more vibrant
for its surprising presence. Again the
violin solo is in what seems almost
personal communion tracking through
both troubled and untroubled inscapes.
The recording is generously clear and
has notable detailing and impact. This
can be heard in the clear differentiation
of the gruffly threatening brass at
the end of the first movement.
The Violin Concerto
was premiered in 1960 by Endré
Wolf with the BBCSO conducted by Rudolf
There are two competing
versions of the Violin Concerto although
both have been deleted for almost a
decade now. The first on the scene was
on Unicorn played by Carl Pini with
David Measham conducting the Melbourne
Symphony Orchestra (DKP(CD)9056) and
recorded on 6 March 1985. The coupling
was the Ireland Piano Concerto played
by Geoffrey Tozer who was later to make
his mark with Chandos's Medtner series.
In 1994 came the short-lived
Conifer CDCF225 which coupled the concertos
for violin and viola. The soloist was
the then little known Tasmin Little
and the conductor was Vernon Handley
with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
While there is little
to choose between the timings of these
three versions in the final passionate
flight of the allegro giocoso (5:12
Osostowicz; 5:13 Pini; 4:54 Little)
the monolithic first movement differs
widely: 14:36 Osostowicz; 12:38 Pini;
13:28 Little. The sense of momentum
and movement is inspirational in the
Pini but his instrument sounds noticeably
nasal and vinegary by comparison with
that of Osostowicz. Handley and Little
on Unicorn are also propulsive and project
the music strongly. Little's tone is
similar to that of Osostowicz although
Osostowicz uses a shading of vibrato.
This Naxos disc is
a fine Rubbra coupling - especially
important to those exploring Rubbra.
It's at bargain price and introduces
the passionate Improvisation.
In an ideal world I would prefer the
Tasmin Little; the forwardness and urgent
projection of Little and Handley are
irresistible. However it's all rather
academic since neither the Conifer nor
the Unicorn are currently available.
This is therefore a
logical, fine and inexpensive Rubbra
coupling that will strongly reward the