The celebration of John Joubertís 80th
birthday happily prompted a few recordings of his all-too-often overlooked
music. All these releases have been reviewed here, and each has fully
demonstrated the breadth of this composerís vision while emphasising
the stylistic consistency of his music.
This single CD - in itself a Lyrita first - superbly complements the
other discs recently released with one of his early major works. The
Symphony No.1 Op.20 was completed in 1955 and revised
some time later. It is laid out in four movements adhering to the traditional
model, with the Scherzo placed third.
The first movement opens with a resolute dotted rhythm and a four-note
cell, both of which pervade the entire movement.
A more sustained melody on strings will also play
an important part in this fairly developed movement that ends unresolved
with a final rumble from the lower strings.
The searing outburst with which the second movement
brutally opens disrupts the uneasy, ambiguous mood in the last bars
of the first movement.
Indeed, the second movement is a rather troubled and
intense affair, in which more lyrical, impassioned episodes try to lighten
the prevailing tragic mood. The rather nervous Scherzo that follows
does not really release the tension of the preceding movements, although
there is a quieter episode at its centre. This does not last long, and
ďthe headlong momentum of the Scherzo is soon restoredĒ (the composerís
The finale was originally planned as a Rondo with a
short slow introduction; but, when revising the score for publication,
the composer considerably expanded the introduction, that now occupies
about half of the entire Finale. It opens with menacing timpani strokes,
much in tune with what has been heard in the preceding movements. This
introduces some searingly beautiful music moving at a slow tempo.
The conflict is obviously still unresolved. Only with
the concluding Allegro does the mood eventually brighten, and the symphony
ends in a positive, assertive peroration.
Joubertís First Symphony is a magnificent piece and one of considerable
substance and great expressive strength. It displays the still young
composerís confidence and mastery. Admittedly, the music is fairly traditional
by mid-20th century standards: ďThe language bears all the
hallmarks both of the tradition I felt I was their heir to and of my
then current enthusiasmsĒ. These words by the composer refer to, say,
Vaughan Williams who was such an important influence on many composers
at that time. In addition I have also been reminded of Rubbra, Alwyn
and Walton; none the worse for that. I had not heard Joubertís First
Symphony for a long time, and I had but a faint memory of it. I was
thus delighted to make acquaintance again with a fine work of substance
that has lingered in obscurity for too long. I hope now that we will
not have to wait another ten years to have some of Joubertís major works
available in commercial recordings. This splendid and heartily committed
performance by one of the staunchest champions of British music aptly
crowns Joubertís birthday celebrations.
see also review by Rob