Music in which Buddhism meets Catholicism
Writing in the 2001 New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Edmund Rubbra's biographer the American musicologist Ralph Scott Grover described how:
Rubbra's output reveals a unity on two levels: the musical, which is readily demonstrable, and the less easily perceived religous/philosophical, which overrides the musical and encompasses almost everything he wrote. It is universal rather than sectarian, an instinctive blend of the most spiritual and mystical elements of Buddhism and Catholicism. It led to a music that overflows with optimism and a sense of well-being, though the, at times, dramatic and conflictual aspects attest to the hard-won nature of that ultimate peace and reassurance.SOMM's newly restored and re-mastered release of archive recordings of Rubbra's Second and Fourth Symphonies, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult and the composer respectively, shine a new light on these two important and neglected works. I may trade in a foreign currency, but for my money Rubbra's Fourth, with its daring Con moto first movement, is among the great symphonies of the 20th century. This priceless archive recording captures in miraculously restored sound the composer conducting the premiere of the work played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at a 1942 Prom. (Both symphonies can be heard streamed from the Sonn website. Listen to track 5, the transcendent opening movement of the Fourth Symphony, or live forever in darkness.)
Quite unforgivably the Fourth Symphony has only had one subsequent Proms performance - in 2001 with Richard Hickox conducting the Welsh National Orchestra while recording his invaluable cycle of the Rubbra symphonies for Chandos. Rubbra may not be box office; but both Proms outings showed how the Symphony can be programmed without emptying the hall. In 2001 it was between Ravel's G major piano concert and Elgar's Second Symphony. While the 1942 concert was even more enterprising; I wonder how this programme would sell today?
Prom at 18:00 Fri 14 Aug 1942 Royal Albert Hall
Ludwig van Beethoven
The Creatures of Prometheus
No. 1 Overture
Piano Concerto No 4 in G major
Symphony No. 6 in F major, 'Pastoral'
Symphony No. 4, Op 53
No. 3 Mercury, the Winged Messenger
No. 4 Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
No. 5 Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
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