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Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929–1988)
Orchestral Works – Vol. 2
Symphony No. 2 Sinfonia Mistica for soprano, chorus and orchestra op. 69 (1973-74) [48:41]
Te deum Laudamus for soprano (or semi-chorus), chorus and orchestra (1964 orch. 1966) [8:44]
Sarah Fox (soprano)
BBC National Chorus of Wales/Adrian Partington
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox
rec. Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, 27-28 November 2007.
CHANDOS CHAN10495 [57:28]


Experience Classicsonline

This is part of another admirable Hickox series launched by Chandos. With his death last year this is a series in search of another conductor-advocate. As far as I know there is no Leighton ‘in the can’ from Hickox awaiting issue.

The big Second Symphony seems out of kilter with its times – not that this need worry us now. Leighton was not going to kowtow to any avant-garde hegemony. However there is in this music a similarity to Britten. Some of the more fissile moments bring back memories of the early Britten masterpiece Our Hunting Fathers as in the Meditation where the soprano line taken by Sarah Fox trills, dives and ascends at speed. Leighton, addressing the great issues of life and death and eternity wrote in his idiom of the time. This is somewhere between Rubbra, Shostakovich and Mathias. The choral singing is at times touched with the wand of Carl Orff. Raging rhythmic emphasis can be the order of the day as we hear towards the end of Scherzo I. Leighton admits us into a glistening and elegiacally reflective world as in the Elegy which recalls the Britten Spring Symphony. Scherzo II has the lively spring of Britten’s Simple Symphony. The finale is the single largest movement. The work is written in memory of Leighton’s other Florence who died in 1973. There is an emotional reserve about his writing. It is closer in this sense to Britten than t his friend Finzi and is far distant from Howells. Yet there is a vulnerable emotional yield as well in the case of the Finale. By contrast the Te deum Laudamus is Waltonian and full of clamant rhythmic interest and dynamic contrast. It has a massive grandeur  though ultimately its inwardness triumphs. There is less brilliance of texture here than Walton’s 1937 Te Deum. In fact the work ends in contemplation.

The recording is in keeping with Chandos’s usual exalted standards. They are well used to handling massive textures and rapid transitions from confiding asides to grand rhetoric. As for the notes they are by Adam Binks.

The first volume was reviewed here by Hubert Culot.

Sincere and undemonstrative music not lacking grandeur.

Rob Barnett


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