John JOUBERT (b.1927)
Symphony No.2 in one movement, Op.68 (1970) [22:36]
William ALWYN (1905-1985)
Prelude from The Fairy Fiddler (1924) [9:45]
Derrybeg Fair from The Fairy Fiddler (1925) [3:56]
Carlo MARTELLI (b.1935)
Symphony, Op.4 (1955-56) [34:21]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates
rec. RSNO Centre, Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 11-12 Jan 2011. DDD
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7270 [71:10]

This is a characteristically intriguing assemblage of rare orchestral works. If you knew of them you probably never expected to hear them . They spans a wide vista.

Given its inspiration it is hardly astonishing that the music of Joubert's Second Symphony is intensely serious - even tormented. Its dissonances are not so dyed in the wool as to defy Joubert's natural proclivity for tenderness and melody (4:22; 6:44). It's a one movement piece and could stand unashamed alongside two other cogent monuments to the one movement form: Alwyn's Fifth Hydriotaphia and the still underestimated Rubbra Eleventh. The Symphony was written in memory of those murdererd in the Sharpeville massacre on 21 March 1960. Shortly after it was premiered by the LPO in 1971 in the RFH the then South African government took the trouble to inform Joubert that it would never be performed in South Africa. The world moved on and Apartheid remains only as an agonising memory. This lapidary symphony reminded me at times of Nystroem and Alwyn. Joubert's First Symphony can be heard on Lyrita.

Speaking of Alwyn we get two orchestral snippets from his first shot at an operatic work The Fairy Fiddler (1924-26). There were to be three later mature essays: Farewell Companions (1955), Juan or the Libertine (1965-71) and Miss Julie (1973-76) (review). The Fairy Fiddler was never quite completed. It is the work of a composer barely 20 and the Prelude is a lovingly attractive piece - affluent in green countryside hues though the Irish brogue is not that assertive. It broods and hums to itself in mists and mellow fruitfulness and dawn's first stirrings. There’s a touch of bosky Bax or leafy Howells at work here. The Derrybeg Fair is more rapturous showing an influence from Ravel mixed in with a Harty-like whirling exultation.

Carlo Martelli is the least known of the composers evangelised here. He has had some of his music on CD and there was said once to be a CD on of his music on the Swiss label Dinemec (Serenade and Symphony with the Philharmonia conducted by Serebrier, circa 1998) though I do not recall hearing it. Dutton have recorded his Jubilee March and Cock Linnett (CDLX7147), Romance, Greensleeves, Aubade (CDLX7151) and Celebration Day (CDLX7170). His Persiflage is on Naxos, and Promenade on ASV. His three movement 35 minute symphony is a work that dates back to Martelli's late teens. We owe the third movement and the work's current symmetry to a comment by Malcolm Arnold. The music is more overtly discontented than the Joubert. Martelli provides the background in his excellent liner-note but which is sadly light on autobiography. It’s a brilliant work with influences mentioned here only as an approximation to help you triangulate: Tippett in I (4:33), swelling ambition and coaxing and tense yet halting tenderness typical of Alwyn in II; III is over-cast, predatory yet always melodic in a softened Bergian way and sturdily Sibelian (4:50). There is also some archingly surging writing linked loosely with Tippett's style. Like many another work of the era the Symphony, which was premiered in 1957 and broadcast in 1958 by glorious Norman Del Mar, dropped from sight. A new Iron Age dissonance took concerts and radio by the throat. This is an achingly sincere and accomplished work to add to the catalogue of British symphonic endeavour.

Rob Barnett

A characteristically intriguing assemblage of rare orchestral works – exemplary interpretative values, presentation and recording.