Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Edmund Rubbra - Symphonies Nos. 2 & 6 (Richard Hickox)


Information

Composer: Edmund Rubbra
  1. Symphony No. 6, Op. 80: I. Lento (Sempre flessible) - Allegretto
  2. Symphony No. 6, Op. 80: II. Canto: Largo e sereno
  3. Symphony No. 6, Op. 80: III. Vivace impetuoso
  4. Symphony No. 6, Op. 80: IV. Poco andante - Allegro moderato
  5. Symphony No. 2, Op. 45: I. Lento rubato -
  6. Symphony No. 2, Op. 45: II. Scherzo: Vivace assai
  7. Symphony No. 2, Op. 45: III. Adagio tranquillo
  8. Symphony No. 2, Op. 45: IV. Rondo: Allegretto amabile - Coda: Presto

BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Richard Hickox, conductor
Date: 1996
Label: Chandos
https://www.chandos.net/products/catalogue/CHAN%209481

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Review

I must say that for me the Second Symphony of 1937 has always been among the most problematic of the Rubbra canon, just as the Sixth has been the least. This recording has rather changed that! Richard Hickox and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales have obviously lavished great care on the preparation of this performance: the playing is dedicated and one is gripped straight away by its total conviction.

Counterpoint is the backbone of Rubbra’s music and this is why it makes such demands on the conductor, the players and listeners alike. In tutti sections the orchestral texture can so easily sound opaque and unrelieved. This in spite of the fact that Rubbra thinned it out in 1950, reducing the scoring from triple woodwind to double – and, incidentally, also making a cut in the middle of the first movement. By scrupulously observing every dynamic nuance and ensuring that accents are light and articulation is alive, Richard Hickox and his orchestra succeed in making this symphony sound more lucid than I have heard it before. He takes particular care with the violin line which Rubbra so often doubled at the octave, and which when phrased with the right weight does not sound as thick as it can so easily do. Even the admittedly overscored Scherzo gains by his lighter accentuation. But the heart of the work is its slow movement, a serene and moving meditation. Good though Vernon Handley’s recording was, Hickox comes even closer to the tranquillity and at the same time the power that this music enshrines, and builds the movement with masterly control.

The Sixth Symphony dates from the 1950s at a time when Rubbra enjoyed something approaching fame. The slow movement, Canto, is wonderfully serene and to my mind one of the most beautiful he ever wrote. It grows out of an open fifth and in its purity and tranquillity of spirit it calls to mind the world of the Missa in honorem Sancti Dominici written five years earlier. It was evident in his very first Rubbra recording of this Mass (RCA, 5/76 – nla) that Hickox had a special affinity with and feeling for the composer. He always prepares every change in mood so naturally; he always allows the space in which the argument can unfold. I was particularly struck by the coda of the first movement (fig. 26: track 1, 8'02'') which sounds even more effective here than on Norman Del Mar’s excellent Philharmonia disc. The carolling figure on harp, celesta and clarinets in the Scherzo is also beautifully done.

Thanks to all concerned are in order – for Hickox’s perceptive interpretation, the players’ dedication and sensitivity and last but not least, the exemplary recorded sound that we rather take for granted on this label. Strongly recommended.

-- Robert Layton, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****

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Edmund Rubbra (23 May 1901 – 14 February 1986) was a British composer. He composed both instrumental and vocal works for soloists, chamber groups and full choruses and orchestras. He was greatly esteemed by fellow musicians and was at the peak of his fame in the mid-20th century. The most famous of his pieces are his eleven symphonies. Jis output as a whole is less celebrated today than would have been expected from its sheer merit and from his early popularity. As an author, Rubbra wrote numerous articles during his lifetime, about both his own music and that of others.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Rubbra

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Richard Hickox (5 March 1948 – 23 November 2008) was an English conductor of choral, orchestral and operatic music. He served as Artistic Director of the Northern Sinfonia (1982-1990), Associate Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (1985-2008) and Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (2000-2006). His recording repertoire concentrated on British music, in which he made a number of recording premieres for Chandos Records (he made over 280 recordings for this company) and won five Gramophone Awards.

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3 comments :

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  2. Great British music, you're very kind

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