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Joseph Holbrooke from CPO


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Author Topic: Joseph Holbrooke from CPO  (Read 4196 times)
jimfin
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« Reply #105 on: April 01, 2019, 09:24:49 am »

I'm very much looking forward to my 'Ships', and I think what has been said about Holbrooke and symphonic argument or even 'sense of occasion' applies also to Bantock's symphonies, which are all pleasant but have never grabbed me in the way Omar Khayyam did. My favourite Holbrooke must remain 'The Bells', and I hope for a proper commercial recording of it, though the broadcast we have here serves fine at the moment. I would also love to hear at least one of the operas, though I imagine it's unlikely I ever will.
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« Reply #106 on: April 02, 2019, 01:18:00 pm »

I think you are looking for too much in "Ships", if I may say so, Dundonnell - at least if you are expecting symphonic argument. That's not what Holbrooke is about (to be honest, he wasn't very good at it - and probably knew it!). That's why, with the exception of the Choral Symphony "Homage to E.A. Poe" and possibly "Apollo and the Seaman" everything Joseph called a "symphony" is really more of a "suite". He was a very accomplished orchestrator (IMHO) and excelled at the symphonic poem, the mood painting: so if you think of "Ships" as a series of portraits I hope you will be less disappointed. Having read the score and listened to the CPO recording, both the unedited takes and the final version, many times, I must say I do rather like this work.
I must say,as someone who really enjoys Holbrooke's music,that I've always felt that large scale,abstract form & argument was not one of his best points. I'm chiefly attracted to his music because of his rich,somewhat,gothic (imo) imagination and the brilliancy of his orchestration. I enjoyed his Fourth Symphony. Like some of Langgaard's symphonies,which are more like suites than symphonies;but,imho,no less enjoyable for that! And one of the movements,of the Fourth Symphony,is so gorgeous.I think it's the second movement? I'll have to put it on,again (my memory!). It's like something out of Korngold. It never fails grab my attention. (Gareth may know the moment I'm referring to?) It makes me think what a fine film score Holbrooke could have composed,if he'd the opportunity,or,maybe,been inclined to do so?! If I'm looking for a tersely written,well argued symphony,I would certainly look elsewhere! The Cello Concerto,on the same cd,is another example! Yet,the concise,and,imo,cogently argued,little "Grasshopper" Violin Concerto,geniunely,surprised me! (The Dylan Prelude strikes me as another example;and I'd love to hear a really first rate orchestra tackling it! Come on Cpo! Grin)
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« Reply #107 on: April 02, 2019, 06:17:08 pm »

I was going to add (but I could smell sausages cooking!! Grin) that,unlike Holbrooke (it seems? After all,I've only heard one Holbrooke symphony!!) Langgaard could put together a well argued symphony (symphonies 4 & 6,for example!). But I still find much to enjoy in some of the symphonies,which strike me as more like,glorified,suites (No 8,for example!). Of course,someone will probably point out that Langgaard is a finer,and more original composer;and,with respect to compositions like his,Music of the Spheres,he probably is?! (In fact,I think he is!) But I still like Holbrooke;and I was just making a point! Maybe someone else here can think of another symphony by a different composer,which they enjoy;even though it comes across as more akin to a suite?!
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« Reply #108 on: April 03, 2019, 07:44:55 pm »

I have tried several more times with the Holbrooke Symphony No.3!

My conclusion is that the problem is of Holbrooke's own making. Had he entitled the work "Suite: "The Sea"" then I could accept such a designation and would, respectfully, suggest that this is the best way to listen to it. Ignoring the word "Symphony" and ignoring the movement titles I find it a pleasant, attractive though ultimately unmemorable work. The first movement "Warships" most certainly does not conjure up any warships I know! The second movement is positively Delian and, although I am not a fan of the music of Delius, I can appreciate the beauty of the music. The last movement is a jolly nautical romp based on a sea-shanty, good fun in a "light music" vein. The work "pretends" to something it fails to achieve.

....and it most certainly has nothing of the "gothic melodrama" of early Holbrooke!

The work CAN be enjoyed....but I cannot appreciate whatever merits it may possess as other than the Suite it actually is.

(and I do not enjoy being negative btw!!)
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« Reply #109 on: April 09, 2019, 01:12:50 pm »

My copy finally got to Japan. I'm enjoying it so far: the finale is good fun, along the lines of those of Stanford's Irish or George Lloyd's 4th, though perhaps those composers might have made more of the whole work. The slow movement has some wonderful sonorities, especially the saxophone (in general the extra winds in the work give it something special). The first movement I need more time with, and I need time too to see how well it hangs together.

We have now (to my knowledge) two Holbrooke symphonies in modern decent recordings: this and the 4th, both quoting well-known melodies, and I wonder how much they make us wish for the rest. I always enjoy Holbrooke, but I'm never sure whether I'm enjoying sonata form or pop music.
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« Reply #110 on: April 10, 2019, 01:56:15 pm »

I listened to all my Holbrooke cd's,a few months ago;and there was not one I didn't enjoy! Although,I'm afraid I will be waiting for this new cd to become available in the UK;and for the price to drop a bit! (If I was a bit better off I would have ordered it when it came out!) I listened to his Fourth symphony,a few days ago. It's more like a suite;and,admittedly,a bit of a curates egg;but the slow movement is gorgeous. There's one brief moment that's like something out of Korngold!  (Pure Hollywood!). But it's the colourful orchestration and the quirky,eccentricity of imagination that fascinates. I can't wait to hear his best music! (Queen Mab,Apollo and the Seaman) Talk of wonderful sonorities and a saxophone just increases my impatience to to hear this new cd.
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« Reply #111 on: April 11, 2019, 01:13:33 pm »

Clive I'm going to be doing the same. I'm rather amazed, having put together a playlist of all the Holbrooke I have on record, that I have ten hours (and that's of different works, not duplicating versions). I have to say I always enjoy him and I'm glad there is so much more out there than there was. When I was a teenager, hearing a single note of Holbrooke was still an impossible dream.

Regarding symphonic argument, I remember Trevor Bray's biography of Bannock saying of Corder "he was not the type of teacher to instil great critical awareness in his pupils, and his three most gifted pupils, Josef [sic] Holbrooke, Bantock and Arnold Bao, all show a tendency towards the unrestrained. Their compositions tend to be too long".

I'm not sure it's completely accurate: Bax knew what he was doing with a symphony, but there is perhaps a meandering quality to the orchestral works of both Bantock and Holbrooke. But they do make some lovely orchestral sounds.
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« Reply #112 on: April 18, 2019, 08:57:28 pm »

Josef (Joseph) is is one of those "marmite" composers who you either want to to hear more of or simply can't be arsed. These three volumes from CPO have given us a showcase of his orchestral virtuosity; together with the two Dutton discs  (Symphony 4, Cello Concerto, Aucussin and Nicolette, Saxophone Concerto). If I could envisage further recordings of Queen Mab, The Bells and Apollo and the the Seaman this will have given us a comprehensive view of this composer's finest achievements...

 Smiley
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A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it. (SG, 1922)
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« Reply #113 on: April 19, 2019, 12:34:18 pm »

Yes. Those last three works are absolutely essential.
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cilgwyn
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« Reply #114 on: April 19, 2019, 05:28:11 pm »

Josef (Joseph) is is one of those "marmite" composers who you either want to to hear more of or simply can't be arsed. These three volumes from CPO have given us a showcase of his orchestral virtuosity; together with the two Dutton discs  (Symphony 4, Cello Concerto, Aucussin and Nicolette, Saxophone Concerto). If I could envisage further recordings of Queen Mab, The Bells and Apollo and the the Seaman this will have given us a comprehensive view of this composer's finest achievements...

 Smiley
Luckily,for me;I love Marmite!! Smiley
By the way! Remember the Marmite thread,here?!! (I seem to remember I was the fool who said he preferred,Vegemite?!! Shocked Grin)
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the Administration
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« Reply #115 on: April 19, 2019, 07:29:14 pm »

Josef (Joseph) is is one of those "marmite" composers who you either want to to hear more of or simply can't be arsed. These three volumes from CPO have given us a showcase of his orchestral virtuosity; together with the two Dutton discs  (Symphony 4, Cello Concerto, Aucussin and Nicolette, Saxophone Concerto). If I could envisage further recordings of Queen Mab, The Bells and Apollo and the the Seaman this will have given us a comprehensive view of this composer's finest achievements...

 Smiley
Luckily,for me;I love Marmite!! Smiley
By the way! Remember the Marmite thread,here?!! (I seem to remember I was the fool who said he preferred,Vegemite?!! Shocked Grin)

 Huh Roll Eyes

It is the beginning of a holiday weekend so I shall be indulgent.........but really!
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cilgwyn
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« Reply #116 on: April 20, 2019, 08:01:08 pm »

Josef (Joseph) is is one of those "marmite" composers who you either want to to hear more of or simply can't be arsed. These three volumes from CPO have given us a showcase of his orchestral virtuosity; together with the two Dutton discs  (Symphony 4, Cello Concerto, Aucussin and Nicolette, Saxophone Concerto). If I could envisage further recordings of Queen Mab, The Bells and Apollo and the the Seaman this will have given us a comprehensive view of this composer's finest achievements...

 Smiley
I think they will be recorded at some point! Really good performances and recordings like this allow people to get to know a composer. You play,spot the influences,at first;but,the more you hear,the more apparent it becomes,that the composer has his (or her?) own personality,and,finger prints,that mark them out. Holbrooke,obviously,was a bit of,stick in the mud,late romantic;but his music has a quirky,individuality;and gothic,eccentricity,which marks him out from some of the other also rans,of that period. I think it's getting,pretty obvious,by now. At least,to my ears,that the "cockney wagner" label,was,not just unfair,but innacurate. I can see an influence on the Cauldron of Annwn cycle,yes! But some of the more astringent sounds I hear,in the Dylan prelude (in the faster passages) actually make me think more of late Sibelius,than Wagner! Not that I would like to compare Holbrooke,with the great Finnish,composer! That astringency,is particularly,evident,in some of the later works;like Amontillado,for example! And then,there's the,Prelude to the Bells,which makes me think of Russian composers;and even,fleetingly,of Ravel. (There is no Wagner!!) Although,Holbrooke's palette is,to my ears,less refined,than the French master.

And,so it goes! The more we are able to hear;the more we will be able to extract the real Holbrooke,from,received opinion,and the vagaries of,fickle,fashion!
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« Reply #117 on: May 13, 2019, 09:28:31 pm »

I have to say I find Holbrooke #4 rather disappointing. I have no problem with it being called a symphony, but he overworks the Schubert scherzo and doesn't really add anything much.
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« Reply #118 on: June 12, 2019, 04:59:33 pm »

I'm afraid I'm somewhat underwhelmed by the new CPO disc, but I have to say I think that's more than a little down to the performances, which strike me as not much more than rather tepid runs-through;  for example, listen to how much more carefully Vernon Handley shaped and phrased The Birds of Rhiannon, whereas in this reading it rather just meanders along...Music with such a tendency to prolixity such as Holbrookes - the first movement of Ships being a case in point - really needs the acute ear and sensitivity of a Beecham: what a shame he never recorded any. (I once saw Howard Griffiths described by a famously dyspeptic US reviewer as a "routinier", and took great objection to the term, but I now wonder; this is music that needs much more than simply beating time....)

Having said which, I do hope someone (else) finally records The Bells one day - a splendid piece right up with the best of his work, but which definitely needs a razor-sharp performance from all involved...
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« Reply #119 on: June 20, 2019, 07:04:27 pm »

And here's a satisfied customer!! Grin I received the new Holbrooke cd,yesterday! I'm afraid,I,really,enjoyed everything on it! Shocked Grin Particularly,the symphony! It took more than one,or two,listens to assimilate what I was hearing;but I liked it! Again,for me,it's Holbrooke's flair for orchestration,that really does it for me. The second movement (Hospitalships) opens mysteriously and has to have some of his most evocative music. I think it might just be one of my favourite Holbrooke movements,now! And it was great to be able to hear the final movement in it's entirety,at long last!! I found the whole work wholly intriguing and absorbing! Yes,it's more like a suite;but it's all the wonderful sounds that keep me listening. I never know quite what to expect,really! There's an eccentricity about Holbrooke's imagination,to my ears,that,really,marks him out from some of his more conventional,contemporary,late romantic,wannabees!
As to the other works on the cd. I actually didn't think I knew,"The girl I left behind me"! Of course,I knew the tune immediately!  Again! If you're expecting something like the Enigma Variations,you might be disappointed! But,oh,what gorgeous orchestration! Yes,it rambles a bit;but in a wholly delightful,entertaining,idiosyncratic way,that keeps me listening! I think this might be my favourite Holbrooke variations,after "Auld Lang Syne,on the earlier Cpo cd!
All in all,the only disappointment,as far as I'm concerned,is that there isn't going to follow up cd from Cpo,with another symphony,concerto or ballet! Sad A wonderful cd! Smiley And Gareth Vaughan, definitely,has quite a career opening up as a booklet note,writer!!
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