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Symphony No. 1, Op. 20

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, November 13, 2007
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Vernon Handley
  • Composer: John Joubert
  • Audio CD (November 13, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Lyrita
  • ASIN: B000U9XG3Y
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,118,502 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
I have to declare a personal interest in this disc. John Joubert was one of my teachers at Birmingham University (UK) in the early 1970's. This Symphony is taughtly constructed, it's second movement beginning with a gesture not unlike the opening of Orff's Carmina Burana. The movement has the grandeur of Vaughan William's 7th Symphony. It leads straight into the Scherzo, with a biting quality similar to the earlier Walton. The finale has the kind of drive & joyousness we assocate with Tippett. This is not to suggest that the piece is derived from other models. Joubert has his own very distinctive voice. The recording has great clarity and spaciousness, the London Philharmonic play with real virtuosity (the writing is very demanding - I speak from experience!), and Vernon Handley's control is expert. My only slight quibble is with the short duration. The 2nd Symphony could have been fitted on too. However, let's hope this leads to more recordings from this neglected composer.
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Format: Audio CD
Had I heard this Symphony blind, I would have guessed Robert Simpson. It's that kind of work and that kind of compositional style: traditional within a language that is certainly contemporary but not avant-garde, anchored in tonality, but breathlessly propulsive, full of tension, hugely dramatic and effective, with fleeting whiffs of Stravinsky's neo-classical Serenade-style (The Rake's Progress, Concerto in D), it seemed to me, in the outer movements. In the liner notes, the composer recalls how, upon the work's premiere, the Finale had puzzled the critic from The Times - probably because, coming after such relentless drama (including its brooding, lyrical, powerful and dramatic slow introduction), it is upbeat, playful and melodic - and, other than Stravinsky, it is here one of Simpson's great influences, Carl Nielsen, that now comes to mind, but the playful and pastoral Nielsen. The Symphony was composed in 1955 and is, by the composer's own admission, "very much a youthful work" (he was 28 when he composed it), but one that represented his "coming-of-age as a composer". Joubert was born in South Africa but, after his years of training there, made most of his career in the UK, as an Academic composer - no disparagement intended in the expression - and lecturer at the University of Hull, then Birmingham. He became best known for his carols, anthems and choral music, but he's also composed three operas, another symphony (1970), Concerto for Violin (1954), for Piano (1958), for Bassoon (1974), for Cello (2011), three String Quartets and various other chamber music pieces, three Sonatas for piano.

This single CD, running 31:17, was issued by Lyrita on the occasion of the 2007 celebrations of Joubert's 80th birthday.
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Symphony No. 1, Op. 20
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