Joseph Horovitz was born in Vienna in 1926 but came to live in England in
1938. Since the early 1960's he has been Professor of Composition at the
Royal college of Music, of which he is a Fellow. He holds two Ivor Novello
Awards and in 1996 he received the Gold Order of Merit of Vienna. His works
include twelve ballets, notably Alice in Wonderland, two one-act operas,
nine concertos and music for orchestra, brass and wind bands; plus chamber
music and choral works including the spoof, Horrortorio (for the Hoffnung
concerts). He has also composed scores for Son et Lumière productions,
theatre, radio and over 70 TV plays including Agatha Christie and Rumpole
of the Bailey dramas.
This is a collection of some of his accessible, short, genial works.
The Sinfonietta (1971) begins with an exuberant, Allegro that darts
engagingly hither and thither. It is followed by a slow and more dignified
hymn-like movement. High spirits are rejoined in the rollicking tarantella-like
Con brio finale. The Oboe Concerto (composed as recently as 1993),
played with keen sensitivity by Nicholas Daniel, begins in pastoral mood
with, as Horovitz describes in his CD booklet notes, "the solo moving swiftly,
sometimes quirkily, like a fast brook through meadow and woodland." The middle
movement returns to the hymnal, contrasted with passages where the oboe
rhapsodises over almost static string material. The finale is a jolly, dancing
rondo which has rustic associations at first but then swings through oddly
assorted styles evoking - "Victorian music-halls, Parisian salons or Viennese
band-stands." The light-hearted Jubilee Serenade (1977) is scored
for strings with pairs of oboes and horns and is another quaint mix of styles.
It is written basically as a neo-classical work with the energetic first
Allegro movement, reminiscent of Holst in this vein. The second is a lovely
Andantino with the oboe singing a pastoral song over pizzicato strings. The
Allegretto is fun: it features horns in calypso rhythm while the Finale's
fugue is nice and jazzy.
James Watson's virtuoso trumpet playing sparkles in Horovitz's extrovert
Trumpet Concerto (1963) scored for full orchestra. The outer movements are
brilliantly colourful but I was drawn to the beautiful poignancy of the lyrical
Lento moderato slow movement. The Finale is a rondo with some complex rhythmic
patterns derived from Latin American music. The remaining two short attractively
melodic items, Canzonet and Rondino (both 1956) come from a Suite for Strings
and their content reflect their titles.
The Royal Ballet Sinfonia respond enthusiastically to these essentially light
music pieces for their composer-conductor.