Rob Barnett, b. 1953, Birmingham, UK. Solicitor in UK local government
– now retired. Brought up in Torquay, Devon. After eight years at Plymouth
(1978-1986) moved to Western Isles, Scotland (1986-1998) and finally
Halton Borough Council in the NW of England. Lives with his wife Chris
in the North-West of England. Two grown-up children both away from home
now; one living in Sussex; the other near Warrington.
Rob does not come from a musical family, has no technical musical training
and cannot play an instrument. Such knowledge as he has comes from a
delight in listening to music, a questing attitude and many formative
years of exchanging recordings with contacts and friends in the USA,
Scandinavia and the UK. Add to this reading such fine magazines as Records
and Recordings (long defunct), Gramophone (now a very different voice
from its glory days in the 1960s and 1970s) and Fanfare (still going
strong and still well worth reading) and following BBC Radio 3.
His disorganised collection of CDs, LPs and cassettes continues to be
a source of pleasure, frustration, stimulation and knowledge. Editing
all the classical CD and DVD reviews for MusicWeb International makes
substantial inroads into his own reviewing and listening time. This
also provides further opportunities to learn from, agree and disagree
with the site's reviewers whose reviews come in to his mailbox
every day. Laments the passing of Robert Simpson's 1970s and
1980s radio series ‘The Innocent Ear’ when Simpson would play recordings
of pieces and only identify them after the music had ended. Recalls
the pleasure of discovering Rubbra Symphony 1 and the symphonies of
contemporaries of Mozart and Beethoven in this way.
Has spent far too little time attending real concerts - perhaps a feature
of living in the South-West and then in the far North-West of Scotland.
With the profusion of fine unusual repertoire covered here in the North-West
of England often by highly skilled community orchestras and by the BBCPO
and RLPO he has attended more concerts since 1998 than in all the previous
two decades. Memorable among these are the Stockport Symphony Orchestra's
Malcolm Arnold Symphony 5 (extremely moving); RLPO/Pešek's Asrael
in Symphony Hall, Mark Elder's Bax Spring Fire at the
RAH, Finzi's Clarinet Concerto at Buxton and then Stockport with
the redoubtable Geoffrey Smith, Moeran's Symphony with the Sheffield
Symphony Orchestra and John Longstaff – a conductor who should be on
the international stage - and Bax Symphonies 1 and 6 (Handley/BBCPO,
Rob came to classical music not via Beethoven, Brahms and Bach. Introduced
during his technical college years in 1969-71 via a friend's
record collection of Janácek, Stravinsky, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Martinu,
Bax and Vaughan Williams. Key works from that era included: Janácek
Sinfonietta and Glagolitic Mass; Stravinsky The
Rite and Firebird; Sibelius Tapiola, Symphony
No. 5, Martinu Symphony No. 4; Bax Symphony No. 5; RVW Tallis Fantasia
and Symphonies 5 and 6, Brahms Symphony 3 and Piano Concerto 2, Rachmaninov
Symphonic Dances (Kondrashin), Tchaikovsky Symphony 4, Manfred
and Francesca da Rimini. Believes that people with the spark
of interest in or curiosity about classical music should not be afraid
of going direct to the more unusual repertoire rather than feeling they
must start with Bach, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven and work their way
through. MusicWeb International should play its part in making recommendations
both of performances and repertoire. Unusual linkages between works
can often lead to welcome discoveries.
Rob has been a member of British Music Society (BMS) since 1981 shortly
after the Society was founded. He was editor of the quarterly BMS newsletter
from 1995 to 2012 after a one year stint as editor of the annual BMS
journal. He is a holder of the Society’s Berkeley Medal.
He has been an enthusiast for fine neglected music since the early 1970s.
Notable interests: 20th century orchestral romantics: USA, Scandinavia
(just listen to the magically poised opening bars of Madetoja's
Symphony No. 3), Europe and Australasia, USSR/Russia, British.
Rates the wildly imaginative music of Arnold Bax very highly on an international
stage. Bax's best works (Piano Quintet, Symphony No. 6, November
Woods, Winter Legends) have a desperate beauty and crushing
emotional impact paralleled by that of very few composers of any era.
Granville Bantock is also a special interest - among many others. Bantock's
Omar Khayyam (soloists, chorus, orchestra) is a magnificent
tapestry of music and philosophy. Bantock's similarly-specified
Song of Songs is also likely to yield great rewards. Both Bantock's
red-blooded fantasy and lyrical style leaves the staid, lachrymose and
somewhat mournful glories of Gerontius in the gloomiest of
shades. There is a 1979 BBC tape of the complete Omar conducted by Norman
Del Mar and more recently Chandos have issued the work almost complete.
Cannot understand why BBC Radio 3 ignores (or largely ignores) so much
fine orchestral music (Hovhaness, Braga Santos, Pettersson, Nystroem,
Schuman, Marx, Goossens) but nevertheless cherishes the service. The
BBC Proms programme remains a history of missed opportunities: when
for example will we get a Roy Harris Symphony other than No. 3 or Franz
Schmidt's Second Symphony instead of the standard fare?
Other musical pleasures include the operas and musicals of Stephen Sondheim
(outstanding among these are Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods
and Passion), the film music of Herrmann, Waxman, Friedhofer
and Korngold, the music of Capercaillie, Granuaile by Shaun
Davey, The Chieftains (do try to hear their Mná na h-Éireann
- The Women of Ireland) and the modern popular Celtic revivals
in the Gaelic periphery. One of these days he hopes to see issued a
recording of Eddie McGuire's magical arrangements for soprano
and orchestra of five Gaelic folk-songs. Already enthralled by Canteloube's
Songs of the Auvergne? - then the McGuire is a delight in waiting
and (thank God!) not a hint of tartan, kilts or shortcake about it.
Enjoys attempting reviews of CDs ignored or treated with scant attention
by the major review magazines. Still learning. Still wanting to learn.
Particularly welcomes reviews written in a style accessible to the beginner
yet with enough insight and comparative knowledge to inform, entertain
and encourage the practised hand.
Rob recommends the following pieces of music and would be happy to make
and receive other recommendations if you contact him:-
Marx: Castelli Romana (piano and orchestra) and the extravagantly
luxuriant HerbstSymphonie – the latter awaiting its first recording
Karol Szymanowski's Harnasie (full version) - best heard
in the version by Rowicki
Joseph Holbrooke's tone poem Ulalume, Violin Concerto
and the other Poe-based tone poems of the 1930s. Rob spent years researching
Rutland Boughton's Hardy opera The Queen of Cornwall.
The Immortal Hour is pallid by comparison - this is a blazing
masterpiece and might be seen as an example of Boughton as the British-Celtic
Othmar Schoeck's Violin Concerto and the atmospherically moonlit
Sommernacht for strings. I do wish that Jecklin would issue
their 12 CD set of his songs in a single box. Christopher Walton’s Schoeck
biography is a magnificent achievement.
Josef Suk's Asrael Symphony and War Triptych
(Talich for Asrael and Klima for the War Triptych
Arthur Benjamin's Symphony (best heard in the Lyrita version)
and the Romantic Fantasy for violin, viola and orchestra –
if only someone would get permission to issue the PBS broadcast Philadelphia
version of the Fantasy with the Pasquale brothers as soloists! Truly
Janis Ivanovs Violin Concerto (Campion CD). Irresistible.
Karlowicz Violin Concerto (various versions)
Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 1 (Szigeti/Beecham)
Sibelius Symphony No. 7 (Mravinsky)
Prokofiev Symphony No. 7, Romeo and Juliet
Uuno Klami: Psalmus (Finlandia)
Janácek Sinfonietta (Serebrier - Reference Recordings)
Joly Braga Santos Symphony No. 4 (Portusom and Marco Polo CDs); the
first three symphonies are pretty good too.
Edgar Bainton's Third Symphony - a glimmeringly visionary work
once recorded by the Australian BROLGA LP label and now in a fresh recording
Allan Pettersson Symphony No. 7 (Dorati) and Symphony No. 9 – would
that someone would reissue those 1970s Philips LPs of the version conducted
by Sergio Comissiona.
Leevi Madetoja Symphony No. 3 (Warner Apex - the best version - conducted
by Paavo Rautio but the latest on by Storgards on Ondine is extremely
Valentin Silvestrov Symphony No 5 (BMG Melodiya)
Miaskovsky Symphonies (all of them really but start with 5 conducted
by Konstantin Ivanov then move on to 24 and 25 and then 21), and Violin
Kurt Atterburg: Three Interludes from Fanal – as yet unrecorded;
Symphony 3, Concertos for cello, violin and piano
Gosta Nystroem Sinfonia del Mare (Swedish Society Discofil
and Bis) and the opera Herr Arnes Penningar
Roy Harris Symphony 7 (Ormandy version on Albany)
William Schuman Symphony No. 3 (CBS Bernstein) and Violin Concerto (Zukofsky
Eugene Goossens Symphonies 1 and 2 (ABC Classics and Chandos) – we also
need recordings of the fascinating but lower key Phantasy Concerto
Louis Glass Symphony No. 5 - you must hear this! (not the Marco Polo
version) – a wonderful Danish Radio broadcast conducted by Schønwandt
won me around. The Danacord version is better but lacking the inner
light projected by Schønwandt.
Constant Lambert’s Music for Orchestra - now available on Dutton
with the composer and on Lyrita with Norman Del Mar. You need to look
past the pasty-faced title to this compactly expressed music that has
a glorious symphonic-romantic tread.
Maurice Jacobson's The Hound of Heaven, for tenor, chorus
and orchestra - one of the masterpieces of the British musical renaissance
yet still unrecorded and very rarely performed
Robert Nathaniel Dett's 1930s oratorio The Ordering of Moses
- this I have heard
Maurice Johnstone's Dover Beach and the superb orchestral
rhapsody Tarn Hows (ASV).
And - Eric Fogg's gorgeous Sea-Sheen (now on Dutton).