MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Buy through MusicWeb for £11.00 postage paid World-wide. Try it on Sale or Return
You may prefer to pay by Sterling cheque or Euro notes to avoid PayPal. Contactfor details

Purchase button

The Lyrita Catalogue

ArchivMusik (USA sales only)

Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986)
Symphony No. 6, Op. 80 (1953-54) [32:40]
Symphony No. 8, Op. 132, Hommage à Teilhard de Chardin (1966-68) [24:55]
Soliloquy for cello and orchestra, Op. 57 (1943-44) [15:02]
Rohan de Saram (cello)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Norman Del Mar (6; 8)
London Symphony Orchestra/Vernon Handley
No recording details given. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.234 [72:38]
Error processing SSI file

Northampton-born Edmund Rubbra is I believe a minor master, a profoundly spiritual man whose music is beginning to receive the recognition that it deserves. I am informed that these original Lyrita issues were some of the small number of defining recordings that helped raise Rubbra’s music from virtual obscurity into a resurgence as an important composer worthy of genuine interest. I am familiar with several of Rubbra’s symphonies, a few concertante scores, some chamber and sacred music. However prior to receiving this Lyrita release I had not heard these two symphonies at all.

The four movement Symphony No. 6 was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society and composed when Rubbra was in his early fifties. At the premiere of the work in 1954 Sir Malcolm Sargent conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

The strong and mysterious opening movement is disconcerting and tense with isolated episodes of spring-like bloom. The movement ends like a boat becalmed on the seas. The canto (largo e sereno) is meditative; never cheerful. Rubbra’s mood is serious with an undercurrent of apprehension. The music builds to an unsettling climax before a brief episode of relative quietude. In the third movement Rubbra’s joy and vitality run rampant. The celesta and xylophone productively contribute to the bright colourings. In the final movement the long expressive lines are maintained, dignified and mellow. The prevailing mood changes to one of hectic searching; as if for freedom. The contrasts between storm and relative calm rapidly fluctuate. The conclusion to the score comes as a welcome respite from the tension. One is left wondering how they should really feel as Rubbra’s inner emotions are so difficult to read.

Rubbra’s Symphony No. 8 is cast in three movements. He gave the score the title Hommage à Teilhard de Chardin in honour of his appreciation for the controversial French Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a philosopher who also had a considerable interest in biology and palaeontology. The Eighth Symphony had to wait a few years for its premiere performance which was given in 1971 under the baton of Sir Charles Groves and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool.

The serious mood of dark foreboding that pervades the earlier Sixth Symphony is immediately present. It is hard to imagine anything sacred here and I contend that the movement contains an almost pagan quality. The mood builds to an angry and aggressive pitch that feels unremitting, ending with a sense of emotional exhaustion. The central movement marked allegretto con brio is hectic and bustling with nervous energy. Occasional woodwind episodes provide an opportunity for an emotional respite from the uncertainty. In the poco lento closing movement the thick almost impenetrable textures remain. Rubbra’s refusal to provide memorable themes makes the music an arduous and turbulent emotional journey. At 5.36 to 6.00 the drums beat out a disturbing tattoo, some relief is provided but any reprieve is short-lived. The tension increases although thankfully the harp enters at 7.45 to herald a long-awaited and welcome mood of tranquillity.

On this Lyrita recording of the two symphonies the Philharmonia barely put a foot wrong with world class playing that eminently satisfies. The strings and woodwind just have to be singled out for their ensemble and superb tone.

The earliest of the three scores, the Soliloquy, was composed I believe between 1943-1944, although the booklet notes give two dates for the score: 1944 and 1947. This single movement work for solo cello and a small orchestra of strings, two horns and timpani was composed for the use of Rubbra’s friend, the eminent cellist William Pleeth.

In the Soliloquy the determined cello sings its mournful song almost incessantly against a dense orchestral background. Rubbra clearly has something serious and profound to say. It would have been impossible for him not to have been emotionally scarred by the terrible events of world war two; which was still taking place. One becomes unsettled by the disconcerting character of the music that one hopes will soon end to release the tension. Cellist Rohan de Saram is a committed and compelling soloist against the backdrop of Rubbra’s demanding and unremitting, tension-filled music. The London Symphony Orchestra respond with persuasive and passionate support.

In spite of not knowing where or when the recordings were made the Lyrita engineers have provided clear and well-balanced sound quality and the booklet notes from Adrian Yardley are first class. I can guarantee that it won’t be long before this excellent Lyrita reissue is on my player again. For those who are not familiar with the orchestral works of Rubbra this would make an excellent place to start.

Michael Cookson

see also review by Colin Clarke


Return to Index

Error processing SSI file