Hugo Rignold / Edmund Rubbra / Rudolf Schwarz / Endre Wolf

Edmund Rubbra: Sinfonia Concertante Op. 38; Violin Concerto Op. 103

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The music of British composer Edmund Rubbra, arch-Romantic and highly expressive, appears well on its way to revival, even beyond the composer's 11 symphonies (which have never completely fallen out of the repertory). Here, from the immensely successful historical recordings series of the Lyrita label, you get two of Rubbra's comparatively scarce concerted works, with an intermezzo consisting of some delightful short works either by Rubbra or with Rubbra on piano. It is notable that one of the large pieces here, the Sinfonia Concertante, Op. 38 (1936, revised 1943), is not a concerto in the usual sense. Neither is it a piece for multiple solo instruments and orchestra in the vein of the Haydn-Mozart sinfonia concertante. Instead, Rubbra treats the piano essentially as another instrument in the orchestra, albeit as a prominent one; it does not have its usual oppositional role. This is a remarkable work with a dark, monumental tone that may remind one of Sibelius; sample the massive "Fantasia" opening movement, with its dense textures and shifting moods. The later Violin Concerto, Op. 103, has a more conventional melodic role for the soloist, but it too is a serious work that avoids virtuoso display. Kudos are due the nameless engineers of these 1960s BBC radio broadcasts, and the performances, with Rubbra himself on piano in the 1967 City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra broadcast of the Sinfonia Concertante, are both polished and appropriately passionate.

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