Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us


Krisia Osostowicz & Ulster Orchestra/Takuo Yuasa

NAXOS 8.557591

It is increasingly difficult to understand why the music of Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986) i s not heard more frequently and has been, so far, under-recorded.

He has been accused unfairly that his music is often too thickly scored. My own opinion is that here we have a composer who knows what he wants – and how to achieve it; he is a thinker, not a superficial colourist.

The dark mood at the opening of Rubbra's Improvisation for Violin & Orchestra Op 89 may remind youof the Nocturne from Shostakovich's own First Violin Concerto. But the music is firmly Rubbra's own, scored in his own inimitable way. There is a searching, yearning passion about this music and one leaves it feeling soothed and yet, wanting more. Some discerning listeners often wish for the darkness, or sadness of their own feelings to be echoed in music. Even in the rapid sections of this wonderfully astringent piece the overall mood is not dispelled. Yet after having heard all of it one can at last feel at peace.

The Improvisations on Virginal Pieces by Giles Farnaby Opus 50 is one of those delightful suites of ‘old wine in new bottles'. For this listener, though he loves old (red) wine, in music he so often prefers the stuff in new bottles. Short, jolly pieces, charmingly, often amusingly written and always deftly scored. No real depth required here, just sip your own choice of liquid and enjoy it as it passes away about fourteen minutes.

The Violin Concerto Opus 103 was written in 1959, three years after the Improvisation. This piece is an absolute denial to those who claim his orchestrations are thick and unwieldy; this can be said of all the pieces on this disc. Written in three movements, fast - slow - fast, the first is the most substantial, lasting very nearly a quarter of an hour. At once, we are in dark territory with a strongly pulsating theme which, when learnt by the listener is very rewarding. The soloist enters after about a minute with its own counter-melody and how rich and beautiful it all is. This music is totally typical of its composer – full of his individual ‘soundprints'. A sense of urgency pervades all and there is always a certain amount of excitement. At almost the very end of the long first movement, the Dies Irae theme is announced – how menacing that always sounds, cropping up all over the place.

With the opening of the slow Poema we are back in the pulling of the heart region of Op 89 along with the deepening of the soul – truly sad, beautiful music of great depth, and the soloist comes in with a soaring lament of great beauty. Finally, an Allegro giocoso with a tinge once more of old wine, sounding modal, if not minor. However, I suppose it is giocoso (jocular, playful) of a sort.

Rubbra's music isn't like anyone else's and influences aren't at all obvious. His was for its time a new, rare and highly individual voice. The concerto is given a most admirable performance and the recording is admirably clear with the soloist placed in a very realistic balance.

© Denis Day