RUBBRA Sinfonia Concertante. Violin Concerto
What a treat to encounter Rubbra’s glorious Violin Concerto played by the work’s Budapest-born dedicatee Endre Wolf (1913-2011). This February 1960 broadcast from Maida Vale under Rudolf Schwarz’s baton was only its second performance, the world premiere having taken place three days previously at the Royal Festival Hall. A memorably unforced display it proves, too, plumbing genuine depths of rapt expression particularly in the ravishing central ‘Poema’, which evinces such a striking kinship with the sublime ‘Canto’ slow movement of the Sixth Symphony from 1954. There’s the odd tiny slip and some occasional background swish to contend with but it remains a cherishable document and must be deemed an essential supplement to the concerto’s three commercial recordings from Krysia Osostowicz (Naxos, 11/05), Carl Pini (Unicorn-Kanchana, 1/87 – nla) and Tasmin Little (Conifer, 10/94 – nla) – the last-named’s marvellously lucid alliance with Vernon Handley and the RPO being especially praiseworthy (any chance of a reissue, I wonder?).
There’s more buried treasure in the shape of a spirited account of the imposing Sinfonia concertante for piano and orchestra that Rubbra originally completed in 1936 and comprehensively overhauled in the early 1940s. The composer himself participated in the first performance with Adrian Boult and the BBC SO at an August 1943 Prom and the present BBC broadcast from May 1967 with the CBSO under Hugo Rignold serves as a splendid reminder of his interpretative skills. What a powerful work it is, too, culminating in a deeply felt prelude and fugue inscribed to the memory of Holst (with whom Rubbra had studied at Reading University and the Royal College of Music). It’s followed here by another Prelude and Fugue, this time for solo piano and based on a theme from the First Piano Sonata by Rubbra’s boyhood teacher, Cyril Scott (1879-1970). Rubbra affords it affectingly serene treatment, as he does Scott’s searching Consolation (1918). Both these items come from a recital transmitted by the BBC in August 1967.
Transfers from Richard Itter’s off-air mono tapes have been most judiciously managed and Paul Conway’s copious notes are a real boon. All in all, an issue to savour.