John JOUBERT (b.
Symphony No. 1 Op.20 (1955) [31:17]
rec. early 1990s? LYRITA SRCD.322 [31:17]
celebration of John Joubertís 80th birthday happily
prompted a few recordings of his all-too-often overlooked
music. All these releases have been reviewed here, and each
has fully demonstrated the breadth of this composerís vision
while emphasising the stylistic consistency of his music.
single CD - in itself a Lyrita first - superbly complements
the other discs recently released with one of his early major
works. The Symphony No.1 Op.20 was completed
in 1955 and revised some time later. It is laid out in four
movements adhering to the traditional model, with the Scherzo
first movement opens with a resolute dotted rhythm and a
four-note cell, both of which pervade the entire movement.
A more sustained melody on strings will also play an important
part in this fairly developed movement that ends unresolved
with a final rumble from the lower strings. The searing outburst
with which the second movement brutally opens disrupts the
uneasy, ambiguous mood in the last bars of the first movement.
Indeed, the second movement is a rather troubled and intense
affair, in which more lyrical, impassioned episodes try to
lighten the prevailing tragic mood. The rather nervous Scherzo
that follows does not really release the tension of the preceding
movements, although there is a quieter episode at its centre.
This does not last long, and ďthe headlong momentum of the
Scherzo is soon restoredĒ (the composerís words). The finale
was originally planned as a Rondo with a short slow introduction;
but, when revising the score for publication, the composer
considerably expanded the introduction, that now occupies
about half of the entire Finale. It opens with menacing timpani
strokes, much in tune with what has been heard in the preceding
movements. This introduces some searingly beautiful music
moving at a slow tempo. The conflict is obviously still unresolved.
Only with the concluding Allegro does the mood eventually
brighten, and the symphony ends in a positive, assertive
First Symphony is a magnificent piece and one of considerable
substance and great expressive strength. It displays the
still young composerís confidence and mastery. Admittedly,
the music is fairly traditional by mid-20th century
standards: ďThe language bears all the hallmarks both of
the tradition I felt I was their heir to and of my then current
enthusiasmsĒ. These words by the composer refer to, say,
Vaughan Williams who was such an important influence on many
composers at that time. In addition I have also been reminded
of Rubbra, Alwyn and Walton; none the worse for that. I had
not heard Joubertís First Symphony for a long time, and I
had but a faint memory of it. I was thus delighted to make
acquaintance again with a fine work of substance that has
lingered in obscurity for too long. I hope now that we will
not have to wait another ten years to have some of Joubertís
major works available in commercial recordings. This splendid
and heartily committed performance by one of the staunchest
champions of British music aptly crowns Joubertís birthday
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