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John JOUBERT (b.
Symphony No. 1 op. 20 (1955) [31:17]
rec. 1990s, DDD (CD single issued for composer's 80th birthday)
sees the eightieth birthday of John Joubert. It's as good
an excuse as any to release Lyrita's digital recording of
Joubert's First Symphony and we should be pleased that
there is an excuse. This tape has been sitting on the shelf since
the early 1990s when various imperatives forced Lyrita into
a long hibernation from which it has only recently awoken.
was born in Cape Town where he was educated. His musical
tutors included W.H. Bell (whose works should be extensively
recorded). In 1946 he began at the RAM studying with Theodore
Holland and Howard Ferguson. A lecturer at Durham then at
Hull he has been remarkably productive in all genres including
three full length operas.
First Symphony was a commission of the Hull Philharmonic
Society who premiered it in 1955 when the conductor was Vilem
this is not too fatuous a remark, it sounds from the outset
like a ‘proper’ symphony with the rhythmic springiness of
its first movement always apt for stormy conflict. There
is a slight Britten aftertaste but the world it inhabits
has more robust parallels with Arnell 3 and Alwyn 1 and 3.
Another work came to mind too and that was something by then
a decade old and by a composer in 1955 enjoying some limited
celebrity at the time - Stanley Bate's embattled Third Symphony.
In the broadest terms the Joubert has a Cheltenham redolence.
The tempest of the first movement carries over into the grim
and gritty second movement which reminded me of Flagello’s
First Symphony. The third movement flies along in a sort
of joyous flaming rage like a chronicle of troubled times.
There’s a distorted reflection of the Dies Irae at
4:03. Surely the rumbling start of the last movement was
influenced by the more anxiety-racked moments in Britten's Sinfonia
da Requiem. The symphony finds cause for joy and its
expression in its last five minutes which culminate in an
exultant and Beethovenian apotheosis.
First Symphony is an early work written when the composer
was only 28. Even so it convinces.
notes comprise a good detailed profile of the composer as
well as Joubert's own essay on the Symphony.
CD single deserves to do very well. All credit to Lyrita
for issuing this impressively serious work in the truly splendid
concentrated isolation of a CD single. We can only hope that
it acts as a harbinger for recordings of his other works.
Mind you it would be good to know which work the composer
would prefer to see recorded next.
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