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John JOUBERT (b. 1927)
Symphony No. 1 op. 20 (1955) [31:17]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
rec. 1990s, DDD (CD single issued for composer's 80th birthday)
LYRITA SRCD.322 [31:17]

2007 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.
Joubert 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.
This First Symphony was a commission of the Hull Philharmonic Society who premiered it in 1955 when the conductor was Vilem Tauský.
If 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.
The First Symphony is an early work written when the composer was only 28. Even so it convinces.
The notes comprise a good detailed profile of the composer as well as Joubert's own essay on the Symphony.
This 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.
Rob Barnett


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