History is re-claimed with two significant archive recordings of a master British symphonist in his early prime on Somm Céleste. The first appearance on disc of Edmund Rubbra conducting the wartime premiere of his own Fourth Symphony (taken from an off-air recording of the live broadcast) is coupled with a live 1954 BBC radio broadcast – considered “quite stupendous” by the composer – of the Second Symphony conducted by the work’s dedicatee, Sir Adrian Boult. Featuring the BBC Symphony Orchestra, both performances have been restored and re-mastered for SOMM Recordings by multiple award-winner Ted Kendall.
On the strength of his first four symphonies, the musicologist and composer Arthur Hutchings described Rubbra as “first and foremost, a symphonist”. That verdict is brilliantly vindicated here with two finely crafted, superbly contrasted works.
The Second Symphony boasts a language that is utterly original, the entirety of its four-movement arc spun out from the long-breathed noble theme at its opening. In his booklet notes, Robert Matthew-Walker describes it as a “musical tapestry of genuine inner life… building to a powerful climax of considerable nobility of thought”. So enamoured of the Second was Boult (who had also conducted its first performance in 1938) that he later chose it as one of his Desert Island Discs when he appeared on the iconic BBC Radio 4 programme.
Recently conscripted, Rubbra was dressed in full military uniform when he conducted the premiere of his Fourth Symphony during the 1942 Proms season at the Royal Albert Hall. At once epic and intimate, powerful and poetic, it has, claims his one-time pupil Robert Layton “one of the most beautiful openings not just in Rubbra but in all English music” and a stirring finale of triumphant dimensions that has been likened to Bruckner. Rubbra’s own introduction to the symphony – first broadcast by BBC Radio five days before its premiere in This Week at the Proms – offers a revealing glimpse into the heart of a mighty and moving symphony.
On This Recording
- Symphony No. 2, op.45 – I. Lento rubato
- II. Scherzo: Vivace assai
- III. Adagio tranquillo
- IV. Rondo: Allegretto amabile – Coda: Presto
- Symphony No. 4, op. 53 – I. Con moto
- II. Intermezzo: Allegretto grazioso
- III. Introduzione: Grave e molto calmo – Allegro maestoso
- Edmund Rubbra introduces his 4th Symphony