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Joseph Holbrooke from CPO


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Author Topic: Joseph Holbrooke from CPO  (Read 3558 times)
Grandenorm
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« Reply #120 on: June 20, 2019, 11:19:40 pm »

Dear Cilgwyn,
Thank you for your kind words. I am so pleased you enjoyed the disk, especially "Ships". Holbrooke's orchestral imagination is always so excitingly colourful especially, IMHO, in his writing for wind instruments. That 2nd movt of "Ships" is breathtaking, I find, while the variations are very entertaining and almost Ivesian in places. That observation, by the way, is not mine. It was made by the distinguished musicologist, David Brown (author of the 4 volume biography of Tchaikovsky) when he heard them first at a concert I organised in London at the Cadogan Hall back in 2010.
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« Reply #121 on: June 21, 2019, 05:53:11 pm »

I respect the views of those who have enjoyed the new disc. I also appreciate the observations about Holbrooke's orchestration. There is indeed much to enjoy in the music.

The problem for me is related to expectations of the Symphony. If a work is called a symphony and if it is in essence a programme symphony then I expect it to deliver. Obviously that does not necessarily mean in the classical definition of symphonic form but at least as a work of real substance. Strauss's Alpine Symphony or RVW's London Symphony or Sinfonia Antarctica deliver genuine power, substance and programmatic evocation.

Sadly, I think Holbrooke aims too high. The fact that the work was alternatively titled suggests some confusion in the composer's own mind which ships and which time he is thinking of. The cd cover picture does depict warships of World War One and given the date of composition of the symphony it seems clear that we are being invited to think of the vessels of that time. If that is the case then the first movement in particular needs to conjure up vistas of imposing power and strength and that it fails to achieve to my ears. The music is attractive and pleasant and certainly demonstrates the skill in orchestration already mentioned. And had Holbrooke more modest designs and expectations both of himself and for his listeners then, as a Suite, the work would work perfectly well. But, as a programme symphony I feel that it fails to achieve the drama, the power, the evocative magic that other composers might have achieved with a similar subject.

I derive absolutely no pleasure from my sense of disappointment with the work. Holbrooke's earlier compositions, and in particular those inspired by Poe, the Gothic melodrama, work extremely well. He achieves what he sets out to do. I am just not convinced that in this symphony he did so. Perhaps I expected too much? Listening to the music freed from the programmatic subtext might well be a better way to tackle the listening experience.

But of course this is a personal response to the music. The enthusiastic response of others should not and will not be diminished by my reservations.
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cilgwyn
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« Reply #122 on: July 07, 2019, 10:59:14 pm »

A rave review,on Musicweb,of the new Cpo,Holbrooke cd! Smiley

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2019/Jul/Holbrooke_sy3_5550412.htm
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« Reply #123 on: July 08, 2019, 01:28:33 am »

I am not a big admirer of Holbrooke's works.  Just don't think it has staying power with me or anything I would want to hear again.  Am I missing something? 
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« Reply #124 on: July 10, 2019, 12:32:50 am »

A rave review,on Musicweb,of the new Cpo,Holbrooke cd! Smiley

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2019/Jul/Holbrooke_sy3_5550412.htm

It is indeed an extremely enthusiastic review and it is perfectly proper that you draw our attention to it.

I do note two things however: one, the strange use of the phrase "overwhelmingly soporific" in reference to the last movement of the symphony and secondly (and more importantly) the clear indication that the reviewer is unfamiiar with Holbrooke's other music. This latter is an unfortunately common feature of reviews on Musicweb. My contention is that the music on the new cd does not match early Holbrooke. In addition rather too often the reviewer admits to not having heard alternative versions of pieces when these are available.
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Grandenorm
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« Reply #125 on: July 10, 2019, 07:55:10 am »

I too was brought up short by the reviewer's phrase "overwhelmingly soporific" (referring to the 2nd movt, by the way, not the last). I can only think he means "restful". I am afraid many reviewers use words of the precisely nuanced meaning of which they seem ignorant - or, worse, use completely the wrong word. For example, I have observed the adjective "crepuscular" employed in a review when the only possible interpretation of its intended meaning from the context was "shell-like", which, of course, it most certainly does NOT mean, and never has.
However, the review is a good one and I am glad that Holbrooke's music made such a positive impression on that listener.
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« Reply #126 on: July 11, 2019, 03:39:16 pm »

However, the review is a good one and I am glad that Holbrooke's music made such a positive impression on that listener.

Yes, this is good exposure for the (hopefully) ongoing CPO project. I find more immediate gratification in Holbrooke's pre-World War One compositions, but there is plenty to enjoy in his later output, not least his continuing and developing mastery of the orchestra. The later music needs more repeated listening (as does so much obscure repertoire) in order to "fix" it in the mind but I, for one, am infinitely grateful to have the chance to do this thanks to Dutton and CPO. As mentioned above there are still considerable gaps in our knowledge, especially the early choral works which cry out for dedicated professional performance with all specified orchestral forces covered (unlike the otherwise admirable BBC studio recording of The Bells). This should be issued by Lyrita in lieu of a modern rendition.

 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 #127 on: July 11, 2019, 03:42:50 pm »

I cannot but agree with what John has just written Smiley
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« Reply #128 on: July 14, 2019, 10:25:04 pm »

A French friend of mine who thought he knew English better than he did, once remarked of something he disapproved of, "Ugh! They are terrific!"
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