Edmund Rubbra: Symphonist by Leo Black

By Leo Black

The song of Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986) has been unjustly ignored - arguably simply because its wide-ranging nature makes it tricky to classify. he's might be top referred to as a symphonist; his 11 symphonies coated a interval of musical and political upheaval (1934 - 1980), the 1st 4 reflecting the uneasy later Nineteen Thirties, with a moment worldwide clash now not avoidable. The immediately-post-war ones record new emotional depths and his conversion, whereas the ultimate symphonies convey a guy nonetheless looking for peace and reconciliation, ignored by means of the realm yet convinced he used to be at the correct course. Leo Black, a student of Rubbra at Oxford within the Fifties, the following provides a sympathetic full-scale examine of those works (the first for a few fifteen years). A succinct biographical caricature throws mild on legends in regards to the BBC and Rubbra; there are complete programme notes on each one symphony, with shorter debts of significant non-symphonic works, particularly a 'triptych' of concertos from the Fifties and significant liturgical items composed round the time of the second one Vatican Council, after Rubbra's conversion to Catholicism. He additionally offers with the vexed query of Rubbra's mysticism.

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Extra resources for Edmund Rubbra: Symphonist

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Rubbra was emphatic that early experiences, and music absorbed in one’s most formative years, are absolutely crucial in deciding what sort of music one writes, with later things far less important or effective. Almost the first words of his reminiscences in ERC were ‘music does not grow and flourish in a narrowly confined area, but is the product of every force to which one is subjected through the very fact of living an active and expanding life’↜, and near the start of an analysis of his Fifth Symphony he wrote I believe everything in life is connected and interdependent so that when one thing in the body politic changes, everything is affected.

The Prelude is another impressive build-up, more intense than the introduction to the first movement, and the triple-time slow-march feeling of the music just before the end of that movement reappears. In the fugue the initial Â�exposition of the ‘subject’ and its counter-subjects is left to the orchestra, the The Early Yearsâ•… 39 first entry being on an instrument for which Rubbra was to show a lifelong preference, the cor anglais.

The first movement’s unity of character is supplemented by appearances of a more forceful idea hinting at a homeland somewhere between Spain and North Africa; this touch of the ‘far-distant Spanish ancestor’ comes twice, at points where the second subject would be in a sonata-form movement, and gets up a fair head of steam. If that original finale was really so frenetic, then the climaxes of the first movement could have offered a link to it. Given the work’s Ravelian quality, a tendency for its melodies to use the scales other than the modern major and minor need not necessarily mean that Rubbra shared his contemporaries’ enthusiasm for the old church modes, which for the most part avoided the crucial ‘leading-note’ effect of having a semitone as the topmost interval before the recurrence of the ‘tonic’ (for example, B to C in C major).

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