He was a recognised master of orchestration and this recording is evidence. Sublime shades and colours and a thoroughly moving experience to listen to. The LPO suit his effervescent style perfectly and they play with virtuosity. Jacob does not pander to the style of the day but instead writes as he wants and his character shines through.
Whilst I very much respect, and don't altogether disagree with the comments made in the two earlier reviews I have enjoyed this CD (having listened to it several times) more than expected. Yes, the music is rather 'academic', well crafted and orchestrated (as one would expect with Gordon Jacob) but I feel that there is a depth of feeling below the 'academic - post-Hindemith' surface. I would agree that this is not on the same level as Bax or Moeran for example, but there is something worthwhile even so. Colin Fortune was right to suggest that the highlight is the slow movement of Symphony No 1 - a deeply felt and memorable eulogy to Jacob's brother, killed in World War One - but I have enjoyed Symphony No 2 also - the slow movement has a dark eloquence, which I find moving. There are echoes of Britten's Bridge Variations and the first note of the Symphony No 2 reminded me of the opening of Copland's Third Symphony. I wish that Jacob's Concerto for Two Pianos had made it to CD as I remember greatly enjoying it on an EMI LP. Certainly I enjoyed this music more than that of York Bowen, for example, and do not regret the purchase. Beneath the academic surface there is a troubled poetry, which is appealing in places.
Jacobs was better known as a teacher, writing a brilliant treatise on orchestral technique. His music is far less known and these symphonies perhaps tell us why: while they are perfectly competent they do not stand up above the crowd - and there was quite a crowd of British symphonists during his lifetime. Bax, with his tempestuous aural imagination has fared better in recent times, thanks also to a revival instigated by Lyrita, the independent that produced these recordings.
These works are nonetheless worth audition by anyone interested in the evolution of British music which generally has been neglected in this era with only Lyrita and a few other independents trying to redress the situation. They have brash and brilliant moments but nothing particularly outstanding.
The production values are up to the usual Lyrita standard and the performances are excellent.
Alas I was deeply disappointed by this issue, which has all the hallmarks of Lyrita's best production techniques and some really fine playing. The trouble is that the music is really rather thin on substance and is virtually unmemorable. The best bits are the second movement of the First Symphony - the only part that was played in public at a Three Choirs in 1933 - and the opening of the first movement of the Second Symphony. Music of this type from this period often seems to descend into a sub-Hindemith type of style, and these symphonies are no exception. I am sorry to say that I can see why the music has been neglected and would not advise anyone to buy this issue.