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Rubbra: Symphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra'; The Morning Watch [CD]

Richard Hickox Audio CD
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Rubbra: Symphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra'; The Morning Watch + Rubbra: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 6 + Rubbra: Symphony No.1/A Tribute/Sinfonia Concertante
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Product details

  • Orchestra: BBC National Orchestra of Wales
  • Conductor: Richard Hickox
  • Composer: Edmund Rubbra
  • Audio CD (18 Sep 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B000000AYR
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 159,582 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song TitleArtist Time Price
Listen  1. The Morning Watch, Op. 55Bbc National Orchestra Of Wales12:56Album Only
Listen  2. Symphony No. 9, Op. 140, "Sinfonia sacra": I. PreludeLynne Dawson 3:180.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Symphony No. 9, Op. 140, "Sinfonia sacra": II. Crux fidelis (Chorus)Lynne Dawson 3:530.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Symphony No. 9, Op. 140, "Sinfonia sacra": III. Chorale: Almighty Lord we pray thee (Chorus)Lynne Dawson 2:240.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Symphony No. 9, Op. 140, "Sinfonia sacra": IV. Now in the place were he was crucified (Narrator)Lynne Dawson 8:25Album Only
Listen  6. Symphony No. 9, Op. 140, "Sinfonia sacra": V. Peter went forth (Narrator)Lynne Dawson 8:59Album Only
Listen  7. Symphony No. 9, Op. 140, "Sinfonia sacra": VI. Regina coeli (Chorus)Lynne Dawson 3:120.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Symphony No. 9, Op. 140, "Sinfonia sacra": VII. And behold, two of them went (Narrator)Lynne Dawson0:250.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Symphony No. 9, Op. 140, "Sinfonia Sacra": VIII. Conversation PieceLynne Dawson 3:500.59  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Symphony No. 9, Op. 140, "Sinfonia sacra": IX. And Jesus led them (Narrator)Lynne Dawson 4:420.59  Buy MP3 
Listen11. Symphony No. 9, Op. 140, "Sinfonia sacra": X. Viri Galilaei (Narrator)Lynne Dawson 4:500.59  Buy MP3 

Product Description

Edmonf Rubbra : Symphonie n°9 « Sinfonia sacra : La Résurrection » Op. 140 - The Morning Watch Op. 53 / BBC National Chorus of Wales - BBC National Orchestra of Wales - Richard Hickox, direction

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rubbra's masterpiece 1 Nov 2000
Format:Audio CD
There has been a resurgence in interest in Edmund Rubbra's music over the last few years, and not before time. We have his symphonies, a lot of chamber music and now record companies are recording his marvellous choral music.
This is a fine performance - Lynne Dawson, Della Jones, Stephen Roberts, The BBC National Chorus of Wales and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Richard Hickox. The recording is excellent. There is a lovely photo of the composer, smiling mightily, with his hair all askew, blown by the wind.
This CD starts with 'The Morning Watch' which is a setting of a poem by Henry Vaughan. This begins with an orchestral prelude. This is music of considerable beauty and power, building in intensity, with the drum like a heart beat. After the climax, the choir comes in. Unusually for Rubbra, the choral aspect takes second place in a way but it is a fine work.
The symphony no.9 'Sinfonia Sacra' was first performed in 1973. It was a work that meant more to the composer than any other. It is based on Christ's Passion. Rubbra was a devout Roman Catholic. There was a strong mystical side to his character, as can be heard in much of his music, particularly his church music. This symphony is the culmination of his religious aspect. I still have a recording of its first broadcast performance. Critical reaction was not all that favourable, but at the time there was a sort of artistic Stalinism abroad in Britain, with any tonal work being condemned as old hat. Thirty years on, the pendulum has swung back and we can see the beauty of this wonderful choral work. It is divided into ten parts. It is often intensely beautiful and moving though a narrator speaks her words on two occasions and some my find this awkward. Rubbra was bitterly disappointed by the reaction to this symphony because it meant so much to him. Perhaps today we can reaffirm our faith in composers like him. It is too late for him but not for his music.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reverent Rubbra 12 Dec 2000
By Thomas F. Bertonneau - Published on
Format:Audio CD
A student of Cyril Scott (1879-1970), who qualified both as a composer of concert-music and an adept of Prisca Theologia (or "the New Age"), symphonist Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986) appears to have inherited a mystical, even a slightly cranky, bent from his teacher. Rubbra found his way back to the semblance of orthodoxy by becoming a Catholic just after World War II. Yet his Catholicism boasted a noticeably offbeat flavor through assimilating not only the teleo-biologism of Teilhard de Chardin but the rather pagan-tinged transcendentalism of the seventeenth century "Cambridge Platonists." When Rubbra decided to cast his Ninth Symphony (1972) in the form of a choral-orchestral Passion, his intellectual penchants all but guaranteed that the result would elude custom in one manner or another. And it did. The full title of the work is Symphony No. 9, "Sinfonia Sacra," Opus 140 ("The Resurrection"). It calls for soprano, contralto, and baritone as well as chorus and orchestra, and it plays for three-quarters of an hour. After a brief orchestral prelude, the baritone sings "Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" ("My God, hast thou forsaken me?"), followed by Christ's commendation of his own spirit to the Father. The orchestra then develops the melodic material by itself, leading into Rubbra's settings of the Latin hymn "Crux Fidelis" and the Lutheran chorale "Almighty Lord we pray thee" for full forces. These episodes constitute the "First Movement" of this symphony which, however, plays continuously with one exception. The "Second Movement" commences with Gospel narration by the contralto, who sings of the discovery of the empty tomb in recitative, with elaborate orchestral commentary. Rubbra fashions the conclusion of this part of the Ninth on the Latin hymn "Resurrexi," sung as a vigorous fugato with trumpet fanfares to underscore the "Alleluias" and pointilliste contributions from celesta and glockenspiel. The "Third Movement" ends with the "Regina Caeli" and "Abide with Us." At this point, a brief spoken passage presages the "Fourth Movement." A substantial episode for orchestra alone is followed by the appearance of Jesus and his final anastasis. The "Sinfonia Sacra" concludes on "Viri Galilei" and "They Blessing Upon Us." The music remains for the most part in slow tempi - lento seems to have been Rubbra's favorite designation - but this is appropriate to the topic. The Ninth certainly stands apart from Rubbra's eight other purely instrumental symphonies, being perhaps less symphonic than those and more like an oratorio. As a composer for choral voices, Rubbra creates music reminiscent of that of Vaughan Williams or Finzi or Howells. The latter's "Hymnus Paradisi" and "Missa Sabrinesis" often come to mind. The music contains many beauties, but they require time and patience to reveal themselves. Although there's no competition either for the "Sinfonia" or for the accompanying "Morning Watch," the performances under Hickox and his Welsh musicians seem first rate.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving if flawed, very personal music in marvelous performances 13 Dec 2013
By G.D. - Published on
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This release has been greeted with several awards and much praise, and to a large extent it is well deserved – the performances are glorious, the recording is warm and full and clear at the same time. Rubbra was also an excellent symphonist, and Chandos’s cycle is something of a must. The ninth symphony, however, seems to have held a special place for the composer. Rubbra was a devout Catholic, and his ninth symphony, “Sinfonia sacra” (subtitled “The Resurrection”) was apparently composed as a very personal statement – it is introverted, atmospheric and overall conciliatory in character (even though it was inspired by a Bramante paining showing the risen Christ still suffering the agony of his wounds), and it is a bit difficult to get a firm grasp on it on a first hearing. But do give it a second and third try, for this is – to a large extent – marvelous music.

It started out, apparently, as an oratorio, and Rubbra worked on it for more than a decade before it appeared as a choral symphony – and one can indeed imagine that Rubbra made the switch because of a natural inclination toward coherent, tightly structured arguments. That said, if he hadn’t used the title “symphony” I suppose I wouldn’t have guessed (despite the formal cohesiveness of the work). The most important thing, however, is that it is filled with wonderful music, often agonizingly beautiful and haunting. So why am I hesitant to call it "great"? Well, Rubbra sets the narrative as recitative. Not only does this to an extant wreak havoc on his forms, but after the deeply moving Regina coeli movement, which builds up to what seems for all purposes to be the climax of the work we get … well, Rubbra chooses to set an unaccompanied piece of text for the narrator. I suppose the profundity of the text is supposed to serve as some kind of apex, but instead the effect is such a lapse of good taste that it almost beggars belief – it’s as if Mahler had decided to interrupt the last movement of his ninth symphony with a narrator telling us “look, this is really profound; seriously” before giving the microphone back to the orchestra. I suppose Rubbra’s devoutness was sufficiently strong for him not to notice how the recited passage almost ruins the work, but it does. Still, he does eventually get the music back on track, and the final movements are often gorgeously haunting.

Had the symphony been an unqualified masterpiece were it not for the mentioned lapse of judgment? I don’t know. Overall it is a deeply moving work, though I suppose there are some stretches that seem a bit meandering – filling in gaps to make sure that the entire story is told by engaging in a bit of note-spinning to get us to the next rapturous moment. But given the quality of those moments I am inclined to forget that. It is, overall, at least a very rewarding work.

To open the program we get the earlier The Morning Watch (yes, Rubbra’s teacher Holst wrote a piece on the same text, and the connection isn’t lost on the listeners). It opens with a slow, reflective instrumental section, gradually building up for the entrance of the chorus. It is also definitely the work of an eminent symphonist, but I cannot, to be honest, conjure up much enthusiasm for it – the thematic material is non-descript, and the whole affair strikes me as little more than a skillfully written occasional piece.

As mentioned the performances are superb. The BBC National Chorus & Orchestra of Wales are marvelous throughout under Hickox’s direction (and if you cannot always make out the words of the chorus you can always consult the booklet – or just wallow in the atmosphere if the text doesn’t appeal to you as much as it did to Rubbra). The soloists are overall very good. Lynne Dawson’s Mary Magdalene is superbly sung, but her voice is perhaps not quite big enough to take command of the stage; as opposed to Della Jones, who does the recitatives magnificently. Stephen Roberts is very good as well, though he doesn’t really have that much to work with. The recorded sound is magnificent, and overall this disc does – despite its flaws – deserve a firm recommendation.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not My Favorite, But... 4 Jan 2014
By J. R. Trtek - Published on
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Edmund Rubbra is a much-neglected composer, many of whose works -- symphonies, quartets, the violin concerto -- deserve much wider play. The two reviewers who preceded me here give a much more learned account of the two works on this disc than I could, but let me add a few personal impressions. In general, with some exceptions, I'm not a big fan of music for orchestra and voice, at least for that composed later than, say, the mid-nineteenth century. Baroque oratorios and Classical masses are usually a joy, but for some reason I have a hard time enjoying most works in that vein that were written later. As I began to listen to Rubbra's Symphony No. 9, composed for orchestra, chorus and vocal soloists, I experienced my usual lack of interest in such compositions. By the halfway mark of the first movement, however, I was willing to admit that my own personal bias had been softened greatly by what I'd been hearing. The piece is elegiac and flowing, never getting strident, though on occasion there is an earnest swelling of tone and volume. For my taste, it does perhaps lack some contrast during the journey, but it's somber and compelling. The Morning Watch, a bit less than one-third the length of the symphony, is very much in the same vein -- indeed, one could almost imagine it as part of the symphony. This release gets my recommendation, and if you keep in mind my prejudice toward compositions of this type, that's saying a lot.
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