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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Edmund Rubbra - Symphonies Nos. 5 & 8 (Richard Hickox)


Composer: Edmund Rubbra
  1. Symphony No. 8, Op. 132 (Hommage à Teilhard de Chardin): I. Moderato
  2. Symphony No. 8, Op. 132 (Hommage à Teilhard de Chardin): II. Allegretto con brio
  3. Symphony No. 8, Op. 132 (Hommage à Teilhard de Chardin): III. Poco lento
  4. Ode to the Queen, Op. 83: I. Sound forth celestial organs
  5. Ode to the Queen, Op. 83: II. Fair as unshaded light
  6. Ode to the Queen, Op. 83: III. Yet once again, let us our measures move
  7. Symphony No. 5, Op. 63: I. Adagio
  8. Symphony No. 5, Op. 63: II. Allegro moderato
  9. Symphony No. 5, Op. 63: III. Grave -
  10. Symphony No. 5, Op. 63: IV. Allegro vivo

Susan Bickley, mezzo-soprano (4-6)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Richard Hickox, conductor

Date: 1999
Label: Chandos



In the early 1950s Rubbra’s Fifth Symphony was a repertory piece and broadcast with frequent regularity. Indeed it aroused such keen interest that when Barbirolli’s pioneering 78rpm set first appeared (HMV, 2/52), it warranted the cover of The Gramophone. Ten years later it had all but disappeared from programmes, and although a second recording was made by the late Hans-Hubert Schonzeler, this is its first digital recording. Let me say straight away that this is the finest account of the Fifth Symphony I can remember hearing (memories of Stokowski conducting it in the early 1950s are dim though I recall that he exaggerated some dynamic markings in the slow movement to great effect and secured wonderful unanimity of attack). Part of the success of Richard Hickox’s series is his instinctive feeling for the tempo at which this music best comes to life and his scrupulous adherence to dynamic markings. Find the right tempo and everything falls into place; observe every dynamic nuance and the textures achieve the right degree of transparency. Of course the quality of the Chandos and BBC recording also plays an important part: there is great detail, presence and warmth.

The Eighth Symphony (1966-8), subtitled Hommage a Teilhard de Chardin, was composed in a very different climate, for by the late 1960s Rubbra’s music was out of fashion. I can testify to the composer’s dismay at the lack of interest shown by the then BBC hierarchy, and the new symphony had to wait three years for its first performance in Liverpool. Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit priest, a philosopher and palaeontologist, whose thought had a great influence on Rubbra. On first acquaintance the music’s mystical feel and luminous texture are at times reminiscent of Holst, but Hickox’s performance has opened my eyes (or ears) to depths that have previously eluded me. The Eighth speaks of deep and serious things and in this performance proves a powerful musical experience. The Ode to the Queen, which completes the disc, is something of a discovery. Commissioned by the BBC to celebrate the Coronation of the present Queen, it is Rubbra’s only song-cycle with full orchestra. The songs – settings of three poems on regal themes by Richard Crashaw, Sir William Davenant and Thomas Campian – are highly inspired, and are beautifully sung here by Susan Bickley. A triumphant conclusion, then, to Richard Hickox’s Rubbra cycle.

-- Robert Layton. Gramophone

More reviews:


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.


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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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Track 9 fails at 4'52" and 6'33"
    Track 10 fails at 26"
    Could you reupload it, please? THANK YOU

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thank you very much!

  3. There are also digital "frying" low level sounds (glitches) throughout most tracks. This must be a disc problem, I believe. Re-uploading can hardly help.

    1. Fixed. See the link below. Thank you for your feedback.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Ronald Do's magic touch! Drop-outs, glitches, noises have all disappeared! The sound is impeccable which is a good thing, because this is a great recording of an inspiring performance. Anyway, thank you Ronald Do for your concern and your generosity.

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