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First Symphonies: John Joubert, William Mathias

Album Summary

>Joubert, John : Symphony no 1, Op. 20
>Mathias, William : Symphony no 1, Op 31
Conductors Ensemble
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Notes & Reviews:

"This is an absolutely marvellous disc which is going to put a lot of collectors in a bit of a dilemma. If like me, you snapped up this version of the Joubert Symphony No.1 when it first appeared as that rare fish, a Classical CD 'single', you will be wondering whether the performance of the Matthias will justify the duplication - I would say wholeheartedly it does. If by happy chance you missed the disc in its first incarnation hesitate no longer and grab it while you can. As well as the quality of the music performed here it serves as a powerful testament to the work of two of the best yet relatively under-appreciated British conductors of their respective generations; Sir Charles Groves and Vernon Handley - was ever a knighthood more deserved for service to the Arts in Britain?...

It is clear the pleasure is not mine alone - throughout this symphony the LPO play with superb virtuosity and audible pleasure in the writing. Also, Handley proves yet again what a marvellous and committed interpreter he was of British music. A word too for engineering and production - it is in the finest Lyrita traditions - to my ear still the source of some of the best sound let alone performance on any recording of British music - the ideal mix of richly detailed sound without ever becoming synthetic or overblown. One little curiosity though; the Lyrita website for the CD 'single' version (SRCD322) lists the recording date as 2 March 1994 and the engineer as Simon Rhodes, the booklet for the current release has the same producer - Andrew Keener - but now it is from March 1995 with Tryggvi Tryggvason watching the meters! In either case it is superb - interesting how this recording team have been able to utilise/control the very resonant acoustic of Watford Town Hall to produce an ideal recording. I must admit I find some recent recordings there to be overly resonant thereby bloating the orchestral sound...

Both works deserve to be heard live in concert but in the meantime this CD does them both honour. The Joubert is unchallenged but the Mathias has considerable opposition in the composer's own recording on Nimbus with the (then) BBC Welsh SO. Although movement timings are reasonably similar the feeling of the Nimbus performance - aided in part but the recording - is far mellower. Also, the 1970 RPO - the strings in particular - is a more virtuosic ensemble than the 1990 Welsh. Groves seems able to maintain the driving dancing momentum better than Mathias and the less subtle recording helps that impression too. Conversely the third movement benefits from the mellower sound on Nimbus. Ultimately they are two very different takes on the same work and if I prefer the Groves it is because I have a penchant for the up-front vigour and vim it captures - this is a young man's music and the spirit of that is well caught by Groves. Mathias's own recording was made just two years before his own tragically early death and that spirit is not nearly so present.

Another marvellous disc of two fascinating Symphonic firsts and a fitting reminder of the stature of two great British conductors." - Nick Barnard, MusicWeb International


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Works Details

>Joubert, John : Symphony no 1, Op. 20
  • Conductor: Vernon Handley
  • Running Time: 31 min. 21 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1955

>Mathias, William : Symphony no 1, Op 31
  • Conductor: Charles Groves
  • Running Time: 30 min. 3 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Orchestral