Monday, May 1, 2017

Frederic Cliffe - Symphony No. 1; Cloud and Sunshine (Christopher Fifield) mp3


Composer: Frederic Cliffe
  1. Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1: 1. Allegro non troppo
  2. Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1: 2. Scherzo. Allegro molto
  3. Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1: 3. Ballade. Andante con espressione - Tempo placido - Lento
  4. Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1: 4. Finale. Allegro vivace - Andante maestoso
  5. Orchestral Picture: Cloud and Sunshine

Malmö Opera Orchestra
Christopher Fifield, conductor
Date: 2003
Label: Sterling



Frederic Cliffe (of whom, I confess, I had never heard until now) was born in Bradford in 1857, a few months before Elgar. He studied composition with Sir Arthur Sullivan and was later on the professorial staff of the newly formed Royal College of Music. He had a comparatively low profile, yet his First Symphony caused a sensation when it was premièred in London in 1889, being described as ‘fresh in style; full of glow and spirit, and delightfully melodious throughout’. 

It is an astonishing achievement for a fledgling composer and it was my symphonic discovery (late in the year) of 2003. It quite bowled me over by its fluency, confidence and imaginative scoring – the chorale-like writing for horns and deep brass would not disgrace Wagner. Its style is eclectic, of course, but the influences are fully absorbed, and I can best describe it as very like an undiscovered early symphony of Dvorák (and better integrated and constructed than that composer’s First). 

The strong opening theme with its stabbing, rhythmic duplet gives way to a heart-warming secondary theme, and that same lyrical memorability dominates the slow movement, with its cor anglais tune and a passionate climax which brings material later transformed into the apotheosis of the finale. There is a brief scherzo between the first two movements which offers a whiff of Bruckner, but is altogether lighter with its undulating syncopations. 

What is so striking throughout is Cliffe’s confident sequential development of his ideas – he is a true symphonist. The finale has a Mendelssohnian flair and grace, producing another endearing secondary theme and moving through an impressive contrapuntal development to its majestic finale. The Orchestral Picture is in a similar style and equally assured and inventive, though not as memorable as the symphony. 

Why then has this remarkable music disappeared? Christopher Fifield, who directs these powerful performances, suggests in his booklet-notes that Stanford’s jealousy prevented its continued exposure when he read in The Musical Times that Cliffe’s Symphony was ‘one of the most remarkable works of its class produced for many years’. Stanford’s own Irish Symphony was only two years old and as director of the Leeds triennial festival, Stanford was in a position to prevent performances of Cliffe’s music, although it was heard in London and Bournemouth. But now this superb Malmö performance will surely put the symphony on the ‘gramophone map’; there remains other music, including a Violin Concerto, to be rediscovered. 

Meanwhile, if you like unfamiliar late-Romantic symphonies, you cannot do better than this. I enjoyed it greatly, and shall return to it with pleasure. The recording is excellent, full-blooded and convincingly balanced in a concert hall acoustic.

-- Ivan March, Gramophone

More reviews:
MusicWeb International  RECORDING OF THE MONTH


Frederic Cliffe (2 May 1857 – 19 November 1931) was an English composer. From 1884 to 1931 he held the post of Professor of Piano at the Royal College of Music. Among his pupils were John Ireland and Arthur Benjamin. Cliffe had a short career as a composer from 1889 to 1905, with two symphonies as his principal works. After that seventeen-year period of composing substantial works, he had no record of further major composition and his works received few subsequent performances during his lifetime.


Christopher Fifield (born 1945) is an English conductor and classical music historian and musicologist based in London. He studied at the University of Manchester and at the Musikhochschule in Cologne. Fifield is known for his exploration of neglected compositions and records for the Swedish label Sterling many world premieres, often from the 19th century Romantic repertoire. He is the biographer of Max Bruch and Hans Richter, and edited the Letters and Diaries of Kathleen Ferrier.


MP3 320 kbps CBR
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