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Holbrooke: Symphonic Poems Import

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Conductor: Griffiths
  • Composer: Holbrooke
  • Audio CD (29 Jun. 2009)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: CPO
  • ASIN: B002586YH8
  • Other Editions: Audio CD
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 280,923 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
  • Sample this album Artist (Sample)
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Today very few people have heard of the English composer Josef (or Joseph) Holbrooke (1878-1958) and fewer still have any acquaintance with his music. A romantic and a symbolist in sound, his period of success was relatively brief, from around 1900 to the outbreak of the First World War.

Although he continued to compose and constantly revise earlier compositions he gradually faded from public view and his death in 1958 was not widely commented upon. A great friend of Granville Bantock (1868-1946) and Cyril Scott (1879-1970), Holbrooke shared with these composers an almost total neglect from the 1930s onwards. Today, thanks to Hyperion and Chandos, we are no longer ignorant of Bantock or Scott - indeed the recordings made by these two premier British companies have been truly revelatory.

CPO, a German label, have now taken the plunge and issued what may become the first of several Holbrooke discs. This long-awaited CD is a fantastic show-case for Holbrooke's music with superlative performances by the Brandenburg State Orchestra under Howard Griffiths. Anybody who has heard the 1990s Marco Polo recordings of Holbrooke (worthy but ultimately let down by orchestral insecurity and lacklustre acoustics) can rest assured that this new disc brings playing, interpretation and recording of an entirely different class. The tremendous difficulties of Holbrooke's orchestral writing are taken with aplomb and the results are quite astounding.
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Holbrooke isn't a familiar name but his name meant fame in the UK between 1900 and 1920. His music is English opulence - is that possible? - with a highly charged romantic tonal language. It mixes Elgar's nobility with Richard Strauss' fantasy world. He liked romantic Edgar Allan Poe subjects and composed sometimes creepy spooky music, full of fantasy and strange orchestral effects. Problem with this music is that's mostly a `once played, quick forgotten affair, on to the next disc please' but I kept playing this disc for two consecutive nights. Why?
The performance is so white hot - so exaggerated, so Stokowski like - that you forget you deal with a B-composer. The recording is excellent and everything gets an A++++++++++ treatment. So it sounds more interesting than it is and I like that. Second when Holbrooke asks for 8 horns you get 8 (many times you get 4, money matters you know, and with a good ear you can hear that difference). Strings are plenty and lushly romantic, percussion is excellently sharp focussed. Timpani are timpani and not plush drums played under a blanket. And that for an German orchestra! Bravo! Third: very good documentation! More Holbrooke this way please CPO! And please provide a pair of magnifying reading-glasses with the disc for your next Holbrooke so I can easily read the booklet notes.
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I had never heard of Josef/Joseph Holbrooke until I came across this disc whilst browsing the net. Having an interest in music that's off the beaten track, I decided to try it - and it is truly revelatory.

Researching a little about Holbrooke, I found that he was sometimes referred to as "the cockney Wagner", and this is borne out by his rich orchestrations, grandiose gestures and high drama.

This is an ideal introduction to his music - three tone poems, "Amontillado", "Ulalume" (both based on works by Edgar Allan Poe) and "The Viking", together with a set of variations on "Three Blind Mice" which even features a quote from "The British Grenadiers" towards the end - I kid you not.

All the works are given great performances by the German orchestra in exemplary recordings.

I look forward to investigating this composer's work further. Here's hoping that CPO will issue the other tone poems together with Holbrooke's eight symphonies - this music really deserves a wider audience.
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I AGREE WITH MOST OF THE ABOVE REVIEWS. THIS IS A TREMENDOUS DISC OF MOSTLY LITTLE KNOWN MUSIC. CPO ARE TO BE CONGRATULATED YET AGAIN FOR MAKING IT AVAILABLE. THE ORCHESTRA ARE SPLENDID AS IS THE RECORDING. THE "3 BLIND MICE VARIATIONS I FIND NOT AT ALL TIRESOME AS SOME REVIEWER SAID, BUT DELIGHTFUL AND THE FINALE IS JUST WONDERFULLY AMUSING. WHY DO WE NOT SEE HOWARD GRIFFITHS OVER HERE LET ALONE THE ORCHESTRA.
BUY THIS CD - IT'S A WINNER.
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