Rubbra: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4

Album cover art for upc 748871017924
Label: SOMM RECORDS
Catalog: SOMMCD 0179
Format: CD

BBC Symphony Orchestra; Rubbra, Edmund; Boult, Adrian

History is re-claimed with two significant archive recordings, newly restored and re-mastered, by the BBC Symphony Orchestra of a master British symphonist in his early prime on Somm Céleste. The first recorded appearance 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. 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. So enamoured of the Second was Boult 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.

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