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Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
Symphony No. 1 (1929) [34:18]*
Symphony No. 2 in C major (1945) [32:01]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Barry
rec. 1992. DDD
* premiere recording LYRITA SRCD.315 [66:25]
Douglas Bostock and ClassicO gave the Second Symphony an outing
in 1997 the present disc is bound to be preferred. Its coupling
is more substantial; indeed completely compelling.
do not think of Jacob as anything other than a writer of didactic
music. That's our loss. His production was much more varied
as we are slowly discovering. These
two symphonies can loosely be said to be the products of two
world wars; one a decade after the Great War; the other in
the last year of WWII.
First Symphony is dedicated to the memory of Jacob’s brother
Anstey, killed on the Somme in 1916 at age 22. Jacob himself
was made a POW in 1917.
It is in five movements. The splendid allegro
e molto risoluto is full of stomping energy and with much
work allocated to the brass benches. It's radiant stuff ablaze
with echoes of Vaughan Williams, and Sibelius. The second movement lento
e mesto has a sombre Holstian mien recalling the Dirge
for Two Veterans and RVW's Dona Nobis Pacem. Cares
are cast aside for a brief and flighty scherzo. The larghetto with
its skirling bird chirrups briefly recalls Nielsen and at other
times RVW and is warmed by a Delian ambience. Once again the
brass section is given plenty to do and are recorded with satisfying
eminence. This is a brilliant work with echoes and rivulets
from the continent: de Falla, Ravel and Stravinsky. While quite
different I have already mentally bracketed this with Bliss's Colour
Symphony premiered at the Three Choirs in 1922 and with
Rootham's bellicosely athletic First Symphony a recording of
which is soon to be reissued by Lyrita.
described his Second Symphony as a meditation on war, suffering
and victory. At least it was premiered - unlike its predecessor.
The second symphony was given its first performance on 1 May
1946 conducted by Boult. Rudolph Schwarz gave it its first
public outing in Bournemouth on 30 June 1948.
opens ominously but soon finds brightness and an optimistic élan.
The brass writing is as thunderous as that found in Alwyn's
Fourth Symphony and in the tricky surging rhythmic waves that
open Tippett's Second Symphony. The second movement is surprising
for its Warlock-Van Dieren expressionist string writing and
for the tragic dissonance of the brass which later clarifies
for a long episode of Elgar-Finzi-style meditation. The scherzo
flies away and is dusted with the humour of brass, bassoon
and woodblock. As in the First Symphony there are moments where
the string writing sounds influenced by 1930s Tippett and even
the Gloriana years Britten. The finale is touching and
Finzian redolent of those Bachian skirls in the Grand Fantasia
notes are by Eric Wetherell.
credit to the LPO and Barry Wordsworth who make of these two
very unfamiliar or completely unfamiliar works something confident
and not at all tentative.
you have even a passing interest in the British symphony you
must have this disc. While it may take you a while to read
your way into Jacob's style you will find plenty of familiar
way-markers and the rewards keep coming with every audition.
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