This forgotten Rubbra really is a big deal
...for Rubbra had produced something fit to stand alongside his best, and in its beauty of string-orchestral sound, alongside classics in the genre by Elgar, Schönberg, Vaughan Williams, Barber, Strauss and Tippett.That is Leo Black writing in his biography of Edmund Rubbra about the composer's Sinfonietta, and the refreshingly positive response to my recent post Rubbra is a big deal prompts me to make the case for this work. If Rubbra is a forgotten composer, his Sinfonietta for large string orchestra is a doubly forgotten classic. This valedictory work was written in the last year of the composer's life to a commission by the Albany Symphony Orchestra, New York and was given its first performance in December 1986 ten months after Rubbra died. A recording of the Albany premiere was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 shortly afterwards as an appendix to a broadcast cycle of Rubbra's symphonies. But since then the Sinfonietta has slipped into unjustified oblivion. It was mysteriously omitted from Richard Hickox's cycle of Rubbra symphonies for Chandos, despite being considered by many to be the composer's twelfth symphony in all but name. To my knowledge there has been just one commercial recording - inevitably now deleted - for EMI by Rubbra's champion and friend Hans-Hubert Schönzeler. However, the parts remain available, so please could an enterprising conductor and orchestra seize the opportunity and start the rehabilitation process for this classic of string writing.
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