Rubbra: Symphonies 2 & 7, Festival Overture / Handley, Boult

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Edmund Rubbra's first four symphonies tend to be hit or miss affairs, and the Second is arguably the best of them. Owing to a resolutely undramatic style, Rubbra's finales in particular tend to bog down in contrapuntal noodling; but despite the fact that he follows the slow movement here with a gently paced Allegretto amabile conclusion, the result is satisfying. As might be expected, Vernon Handley's performance is a fine one, very similar in its basic outlines to Hickox on Chandos (though more successful in the finale) and even more warmly recorded. He does a good job maintaining clarity of texture despite the sometimes thick scoring, and he keeps the music moving intently forward, never allowing Rubbra's rather relentless seriousness of purpose to degenerate into mere pedantry.

The Seventh Symphony belongs to the great quartet of works (Nos. 5-8) that show Rubbra's symphonic art at its best. Compared with the Second, the orchestration is more colorful, the thematic material more distinctive, and the structural control more assured as well as organically spontaneous. Once again there's little to choose between Boult's wise, effortless interpretation and the competition on Chandos, save for the fact that Boult's slightly more relaxed way with rhythm seems a touch more idiomatic than Hickox's sharper edge--and he's even livelier than his younger colleague (surprise!) in the symphony's opening movement. Still, this is a minor point: there are only two versions of this excellent symphony available, and collectors will surely want both. The Festival Overture makes a nice bonus. It's a pleasure to welcome these performances back to the active catalog.

--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: SRCD235

  • UPC: 5020926023520

  • Label: Lyrita

  • Composer: Edmund Rubbra

  • Conductor: Sir Adrian Boult, Vernon Handley

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: London Philharmonic Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra