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Rubbra - Symphonies 4 & 10-11 [CD]

Richard Hickox Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 15.27 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Rubbra - Symphonies 4 & 10-11 + Rubbra: Symphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra'; The Morning Watch
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Product details

  • Orchestra: BBC National Orchestra of Wales
  • Conductor: Richard Hickox
  • Composer: Edmund Rubbra
  • Audio CD (1 Oct 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B000000AXR
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 175,509 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. 1. Con moto
2. 2. Intermezzo: Allegretto grazioso
3. 3. (i) Introduzione: Grave e molto calmo (ii) Allegro maestoso
4. Lento e liberamente -
5. Scherzando ma grazioso -
6. Lento -
7. Molto Adagio
8. Symphony No. 11

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
Rubbra's 1st symphony was completed in 1937 and he had already finished his 4th by 1942. Sergeant Rubbra, in uniform, conducted the first performance at a prom. Like a number of composers, he joined up but mostly played the piano in a small chamber group. Rubbra was an excellent pianist. On one occasion a concert was advertised to the troops as featuring 'Ed Rubb and his string combinations'. They did not get quite what they expected. At this time, Rubbra was considered one of England's most promising composers and this symphony consolidated his position as it was his finest so far. The opening passage has been described as one of the most beautiful in English symphonic music. It begins in the simplest of ways, with a falling fifth and rising third. Rubbra used to say that he liked to have a starting point he could be sure of and then everything else would follow. The movement builds to a climax, the tempo steadily increasing. At the end the music subsides to a peaceful conclusion with a reprise of the opening material. There follows an allegretto grazioso in a sort of waltz rhythm. There is no separate slow movement but the introduction to the final movement is a very beautiful but short grave e molto calme. One longs for more. It leads seamlessly into the final allegro maestoso. The music has a 'catch me if you can' quality. Rubbra once wrote a piano teaching piece called exactly that. The symphony finishes broadly and optimistically.
The 10th symphony (1974) found Rubbra in very different circumstances. He had had to wait three years for the first performance of his 8th symphony. He had been totally ignored by the BBC and concert organisers.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to Rubbra 16 May 2006
Format:Audio CD
The 4th is perhaps the most immediately appealing of Rubbra's 11 symphonies and is a good place to start exploring his music. After a quiet opening the 1st movement slowly gathers momentum and develops into powerful, memorable music. The lighter second movement leads into the 3rd and 4th, played without a break: the finale is rousing, uplifting and thoroughly satisfying. Clearly a logical, planning mind has produced this music. The performance by the National Orchestra of Wales is excellent and the superb Chandos sound enhances the pleasure. Richard Hickox is an outstanding interpreter of English music and this disc is no exception. It is music to listen to again and again. The 10th and 11th symphonies, the two final works in the symphonic cycle, are not perhaps as immediately appealing as the 4th. However, repeated listening brings great rewards. Both have some fine music and are well executed: I find that each of them creates that same sense of satisfaction in the listener. I regard this as one of the best discs in my collection - an essential for lovers of English 20th Century music.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Miss This CD! 2 Jun 2000
By nctomatoman - Published on
Format:Audio CD
My brother tends to plant classical music seeds in my collection. Knowing how tilted toward Mahler my music collection is, he introduces me to other composers via Christmas gifts. In that way, he introduced me to the wonderful music of Bantock, Bax, and Holmboe, amongst many others. My biggest debt to him, though,is for purchasing me this Rubbra disc a year or so ago. I now have the entire Rubbra cycle, and can heartily recommend them all.
None is so lovely, though, as his Symphony #4. With an opening theme that is breathtakingly beautiful, and in fact indelible (one finds themselves playing this music in their heads throughout the day), this symphony is truly great, and deserves to be heard in the concert hall repertoire. Each movement makes perfect sense - each has many memorable moments. Symphonies 10 and 11 are equally worthwhile, but one has to learn Rubbra's musical language before completely coming to terms with them. #4 is definitly entry level and mandatory Rubbra - once you are hooked, much enjoyment awaits as you explore his entire wonderful, relevant symphonic output.
Buy this CD...start the journey!
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three for the price of one 13 May 2001
By Rodney Gavin Bullock - Published on
Format:Audio CD
Edmund Rubbra was a man of great integrity and the rising star of English music from the late 30s to the mid 50s. After that, the classical music programme of the BBC came under the control of a man who was antipathetic to the work of composers who wrote in an accessible, tonal style. That included Rubbra and his music was in effect suppressed by default. His music virtually disappeared from the radio and the important Promenade Concerts. Things started to change in the late 70s and over the last few years, many of his most important works have become available on CD. This year (2001) is the centenary of his birth and the BBC is celebrating it with one work - the 4th symphony. Schoenberg will have nine works. The 4th symphony was first performed at the Proms under Sgt Rubbra and was well received. The opening is one of the most magical in English music. Although there is no slow movement as such, there is a slow, noble introduction to the finale. The main body of the last movement is a sort of 'catch-me-if-you-can', the music finally arriving at a slower, grand ending. The 10th (Sinfonia de Camera) was completed in 1974. As might be expected, it is for a small orchestra. It is in one movement but is divided into four sections differentiated by tempo. Each section mirrors the parts of sonata form - exposition, development, recapitulation and coda. It is a delightful work and sounds quite different to its siblings. The 11th was his last. Again, it is in one movement but this time it is for full orchestra. It begins with the horns - the interval of the 5th being prominent. It might be Bruckner. The piece progresses, the 5th being the building block for the entire work. There is no sign of sonata form here - the music growing organically throughout - a process common to most of his work. The playing of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Richard Hickox is excellent and the Chandos recording is, as always, superb. The notes are informative.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rubbra: "Rich and Rare" 12 Dec 2000
By Thomas F. Bertonneau - Published on
Format:Audio CD
Edmund Rubbra's (1901-1986) Fourth Symphony (1941) addresses the fact of the war just as Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fifth Symphony does: Not by representing it, however, but by an invocation of profound religious piety and serene faith in deliverance from evil. In a discussion of Gustav Holst in "Romanticism and the Twentieth Century" (1962), Wilfrid Mellers observed the importance of rhythm in a modally oriented ethos that lacks the internal conflict of sonata procedure and spoke of Holst's "repeated metrical pattern[s]" as the beginning of "the dominance of ostinato over British music." Yet Mellers also noted a paradox in any composer's reliance on ostinato to produce a feeling of movement, for "the effect of the ostinato is to destroy the time sense." Maybe. Ostinato can also generate a sense of crisis and tension. The five-pulse chordal figure (two quarter notes, one of them dotted, followed by an eighth-note and a couplet, all dotted) heard in the bass register in the combination of clarinet, oboe, and horn in the First Movement (Con Moto) of Rubbra's Fourth does just this, while the long-breathed melody given out by the violins pits its repose against the ostinato's slow restlessness. Harold Truscott wrote, in his chapter on Rubbra and Tippett in Robert Layton's symposium on "The Symphony" (1972), of the "sensuous colour" of this "rare and rich" score. In its timbres, indeed, Rubbra's Fourth does anticipate Vaughan Williams' Fifth, which followed a year or so later, not least in the colorational resemblance of the two opening movements. The Second Movement (Allegretto Grazioso) functions as an intermezzo in Brahmsian fashion and even manages to sound a bit like Brahms (gentle woodwind melodies over a slow dance rhythm, at times definitely a waltz, in the strings). The Third Movement is actually two movements in one: An "Introduzione" (Grave & Molto Calmo) and an "Allegro Maestoso." Faith triumphs as the Phrygian mode gives way to E-Flat Major in the coda. The Tenth Symphony (1974), Rubbra's penultimate, pares the instrumentation down to woodwind, two horns, and strings; it also collapses the traditional four movements into a single span, as in Liszt's "Dante" Sonata or Schoenberg's First Chamber Symphony. The Tenth constitutes an excellent starting-place for anyone interested in becoming acquainted with Rubbra, for it demonstrates his typical procedures in a most transparent way. He begins by offering a few intervals, continues by elaborating them into a complex, quasi-fugal web; the slow elaboration then gives way to a dance, based on the same material, but speeded up. There is a return to slower tempi followed by a brief coda - all in the space of fifteen minutes. The ultimate Rubbra symphony, the Eleventh, restores the full orchestra but compresses the working-out even more tightly than does the Tenth. Rubbra willingly explores the darknesses of his world, but always comes back in the end to the redeeming light. His creed might be summed up in lines of George Herbert: "Sure thou wilt joy, by gaining me / To fly home like a laden bee / Unto that hive of beams / and garland-streams." Richard Hickox and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales turn in warm performances that sort out the difficulties of this music, as the critic wrote, "rich and rare."
4.0 out of 5 stars A 20th Century Treasure 28 Dec 2013
By J. R. Trtek - Published on
Format:Audio CD
My review certainly cannot compete with most, if not all, of those that preceded it here. Read those other essays for knowledgeable, insightful and informative comments on these three works. Let me say that, from the perspective of an untrained layman, the Symphony No. 10 is the high point of the album. This four-movement work -- though the last one is less than a minute -- gently takes the listener down a long and winding introspective path often dominated but never monopolized by strings. The No. 11, recorded here for the first time, is a single movement of just under fifteen minutes, seems to start off like a muted, slow-motion echo of Bruckner, only to slide into a swelling of strings that gives way to rapidly varying short sections that nonetheless form a satisfying whole. For me, the Nol 4 comes in third, but a close third, with more introspection punctuated by short outbursts, almost as if the piece is rolling over onto its other side and then settling into more soul-searching reverie. Some good stuff here.
4.0 out of 5 stars Rewarding music in committed performances 17 Feb 2013
By G.D. - Published on
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I strongly encourage anyone interested in twentieth century music to investigate Chandos's cycle of the symphonies of Edmund Rubbra, but I think I would recommend newcomers to start with e.g. the second and sixth, or the third and seventh symphonies. The fourth symphony, composed while Rubbra was serving in the army during World War II, is as attractive as any, but the two later, more compact works require a bit more effort. The performances by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Richard Hickox are as convincing as ever, however, and the sound quality and presentation leave little to be desired.

The fourth symphony is a compelling, formally taut work. It opens with a lyrical, rather quiet idea that soon gathers intensity and builds up to an impressive climax (at about nine minutes in) before gradually receding back to the lyricism of the opening. It is build around variations on a single idea rather than sonata form, and Rubbra clearly knew what he was doing, for at no point is the movement anything but structurally convincing. The second movement is a graceful (but not light) intermezzo. The final movement consists of a ruminating introduction and a noble march (here tracked separately), impressively poignant while also tying up any remaining loose threads from the previous movement, and which brings the work to a deeply convincing close.

The tenth symphony, Sinfonia da camera, is a late work. It is cast in one movement (though its four sections are separately tracked here) and is a concentrated, contrapuntal work. While the work is as tautly structured as the fourth, and while there are plenty of beautiful ideas, I actually feel that Rubbra's language is better served by more expansive structures - despite its qualities I am not convinced Rubbra really has the time to say what he needs to say in the tenth symphony, yet there is a deeply affecting sense of arrival when it reaches its final coda.

I am, in that respect, less sure about the brief eleventh symphony from 1980. It is a probing, somewhat tentative-sounding work without any of the autumnal feel of a valedictory work (Rubbra would of course live for a few more years, so he might not have conceived of this one as his last essay in the genre). While it contains superb things I have to admit that I found it ultimately unsatisfying, like an afterthought to the previous symphonies that doesn't really go anywhere. Though maybe that was the composer's intention - when it ends, there is, as opposed to the previous works' finales, no sense of arrival or conclusion. In any case, despite some reservations about the eleventh symphony and, to a lesser extent, the tenth, this is a very rewarding release, and firmly recommended if - as mentioned - not the ideal place to start exploring the composer.
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