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Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986)
The Complete Chamber Music and Songs with Harp
A Hymn to the Virgin, op.13 no.2 (1925) [2:36]
Rosa Mundi, op.2 (1921) [2:24]
Fukagawa (Deep River), Traditional Japanese arr Rubbra for harp (c.1929) [2:49]
Pezzo Ostinato for harp, op.102 (1958) [8:05]
The Mystery, op 4 no.1 (1922) [1:14]
Jesukin, op. 4 no.2 (1922) [1:39]
Orpheus with his Lute, op.8 no.2 (1923) [1:50]
Transformations for harp, op.141 (1972) [13:21]
The Jade Mountain op. 116 (1962) [9:33]
Improvisation, op. 124 for cello (1964) [5:01]
Discourse, op. 127 for harp and cello (1969) [6:52]
Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)
Nocturne for harp (1967) [3:56]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Prelude No.1 for harp (1915) [7:57]
Tracey Chadwell (soprano), Danielle Perrett (harp), Timothy Gill (cello)
Full texts
No recording details; originally released as ASV CDDCA1036
LYRITA SRCD.353 [67:23]

Lyrita has sprung something of a surprise here, given that it reissues a disc first released on ASV in the late 1990s. If you have CDDCA1036 on your shelves you can be assured of no difference in terms of the music, and that applies equally to Danielle Perrett’s sleeve note, whose copyright is updated to 2016. Whilst all texts are present, there is no room, however, for the artist biographies in the ASV booklet.

The original has long graced the shelves of Rubbra collectors and its attractions survive its oddly disconcerting reappearance on this label. The repertoire reflects Rubbra’s early and later approaches to voice and harp in settings that range from those made in the earlier 1920s to those made half a century later.

A Hymn to the Virgin is a truly lovely setting of an anonymous text but the earlier, equally tautly constructed, Rosa Mundi was the work that, in the composer’s words, marked ‘a point of departure for my future development’. Originally cast for piano, Fukagawa (Deep River), a traditional Japanese melody, effortlessly survives refashioning for solo harp and its presence here alerts the listener to the riches of the rare material to be encountered.

Delicate and attractive though this piece is, Rubbra’s first truly major statement for solo harp lay decades in the future. That was Pezzo Ostinato, a raptly meditative piece that seems to dissolve the eight minutes of its length and repays repeated listening. Danielle Perrett brings a wide range of coloristic subtlety to bear here and throughout. Similarly, the songs are performed by another refined artist, the lamented Tracey Chadwell, and together the two bring the modal warmth of Jesukin strongly to life. Transformations of 1972 is a large-scale work for solo harp. Its variations unfold logically and somewhat analogously to his symphonic procedure, as it generates a sense of logical flux and textural warmth. It’s almost bardic, too, in places. A major work, this.

The Jade Mountain was composed a decade earlier. The five songs are compressed, allusive and even illustrative in the harp accompaniment where a fast-running stream is evoked in the penultimate song and where Rubbra’s sensitive word setting is always audible. Chadwell is at her very considerable poetic best here.

Improvisation, Op.124 was dedicated to William Pleeth, and Timothy Gill assumes his role, the cello coming as something of a surprise in the programmatic context. He is joined by Perrett for Discourse, vested with a yearning quality by virtue of suggestive arpeggios. The final two works are not by Rubbra at all, but by Lennox Berkeley, whose Nocturne is raptly played, and Herbert Howells. Howells’s Prelude is the earliest piece in the whole programme, delving back to 1915. This recording was its world première.

I’m glad a label has taken over this disc and restored it with such care.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous reviews: Michael Wilkinson (Recording of the Month) ~ Gary Higginson (ASV release)

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