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Symphony No. 9 Sinfonia Sacra


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Product Details

  • Performer: Dawson; Jones; Roberts; BBC National Chorus of Wales; Hickox
  • Composer: Rubbra Edmund
  • Audio CD (Sept. 1 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chn
  • ASIN: B000000AYR
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #206,778 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. The Morning Watch, Op. 55
2. Syphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra', Op. 140 'The Resurrection': Prelude
3. Syphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra', Op. 140 'The Resurrection': Chorus 'Crux Fidelis'
4. Syphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra', Op. 140 'The Resurrection': Chorale 'Almighty Lord We Pray Thee'
5. Syphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra', Op. 140 'The Resurrection': Narrator 'Now In The Place Where He Was Crucified'
6. Syphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra', Op. 140 'The Resurrection': Narrator 'Peter Went Forth'
7. Syphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra', Op. 140 'The Resurrection': Chorus 'Regina Coeli'
8. Syphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra', Op. 140 'The Resurrection': Narrator 'And Behold, Two Of Them Went'
9. Syphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra', Op. 140 'The Resurrection': Conversation Piece
10. Syphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra', Op. 140 'The Resurrection': Narrator 'And Jesus Led Them'
11. Syphony No. 9, 'Sinfonia Sacra', Op. 140 'The Resurrection': Narrator 'Viri Galilaei'

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Format: Audio CD
A student of Cyril Scott (1879-1970), who qualified both as a composer of concert-music and an adept of Prisca Theologia (or "the New Age"), symphonist Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986) appears to have inherited a mystical, even a slightly cranky, bent from his teacher. Rubbra found his way back to the semblance of orthodoxy by becoming a Catholic just after World War II. Yet his Catholicism boasted a noticeably offbeat flavor through assimilating not only the teleo-biologism of Teilhard de Chardin but the rather pagan-tinged transcendentalism of the seventeenth century "Cambridge Platonists." When Rubbra decided to cast his Ninth Symphony (1972) in the form of a choral-orchestral Passion, his intellectual penchants all but guaranteed that the result would elude custom in one manner or another. And it did. The full title of the work is Symphony No. 9, "Sinfonia Sacra," Opus 140 ("The Resurrection"). It calls for soprano, contralto, and baritone as well as chorus and orchestra, and it plays for three-quarters of an hour. After a brief orchestral prelude, the baritone sings "Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" ("My God, hast thou forsaken me?"), followed by Christ's commendation of his own spirit to the Father. The orchestra then develops the melodic material by itself, leading into Rubbra's settings of the Latin hymn "Crux Fidelis" and the Lutheran chorale "Almighty Lord we pray thee" for full forces. These episodes constitute the "First Movement" of this symphony which, however, plays continuously with one exception. The "Second Movement" commences with Gospel narration by the contralto, who sings of the discovery of the empty tomb in recitative, with elaborate orchestral commentary.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Reverent Rubbra Dec 12 2000
By Thomas F. Bertonneau - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
A student of Cyril Scott (1879-1970), who qualified both as a composer of concert-music and an adept of Prisca Theologia (or "the New Age"), symphonist Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986) appears to have inherited a mystical, even a slightly cranky, bent from his teacher. Rubbra found his way back to the semblance of orthodoxy by becoming a Catholic just after World War II. Yet his Catholicism boasted a noticeably offbeat flavor through assimilating not only the teleo-biologism of Teilhard de Chardin but the rather pagan-tinged transcendentalism of the seventeenth century "Cambridge Platonists." When Rubbra decided to cast his Ninth Symphony (1972) in the form of a choral-orchestral Passion, his intellectual penchants all but guaranteed that the result would elude custom in one manner or another. And it did. The full title of the work is Symphony No. 9, "Sinfonia Sacra," Opus 140 ("The Resurrection"). It calls for soprano, contralto, and baritone as well as chorus and orchestra, and it plays for three-quarters of an hour. After a brief orchestral prelude, the baritone sings "Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" ("My God, hast thou forsaken me?"), followed by Christ's commendation of his own spirit to the Father. The orchestra then develops the melodic material by itself, leading into Rubbra's settings of the Latin hymn "Crux Fidelis" and the Lutheran chorale "Almighty Lord we pray thee" for full forces. These episodes constitute the "First Movement" of this symphony which, however, plays continuously with one exception. The "Second Movement" commences with Gospel narration by the contralto, who sings of the discovery of the empty tomb in recitative, with elaborate orchestral commentary. Rubbra fashions the conclusion of this part of the Ninth on the Latin hymn "Resurrexi," sung as a vigorous fugato with trumpet fanfares to underscore the "Alleluias" and pointilliste contributions from celesta and glockenspiel. The "Third Movement" ends with the "Regina Caeli" and "Abide with Us." At this point, a brief spoken passage presages the "Fourth Movement." A substantial episode for orchestra alone is followed by the appearance of Jesus and his final anastasis. The "Sinfonia Sacra" concludes on "Viri Galilei" and "They Blessing Upon Us." The music remains for the most part in slow tempi - lento seems to have been Rubbra's favorite designation - but this is appropriate to the topic. The Ninth certainly stands apart from Rubbra's eight other purely instrumental symphonies, being perhaps less symphonic than those and more like an oratorio. As a composer for choral voices, Rubbra creates music reminiscent of that of Vaughan Williams or Finzi or Howells. The latter's "Hymnus Paradisi" and "Missa Sabrinesis" often come to mind. The music contains many beauties, but they require time and patience to reveal themselves. Although there's no competition either for the "Sinfonia" or for the accompanying "Morning Watch," the performances under Hickox and his Welsh musicians seem first rate.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Moving if flawed, very personal music in marvelous performances Dec 13 2013
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This release has been greeted with several awards and much praise, and to a large extent it is well deserved – the performances are glorious, the recording is warm and full and clear at the same time. Rubbra was also an excellent symphonist, and Chandos’s cycle is something of a must. The ninth symphony, however, seems to have held a special place for the composer. Rubbra was a devout Catholic, and his ninth symphony, “Sinfonia sacra” (subtitled “The Resurrection”) was apparently composed as a very personal statement – it is introverted, atmospheric and overall conciliatory in character (even though it was inspired by a Bramante paining showing the risen Christ still suffering the agony of his wounds), and it is a bit difficult to get a firm grasp on it on a first hearing. But do give it a second and third try, for this is – to a large extent – marvelous music.

It started out, apparently, as an oratorio, and Rubbra worked on it for more than a decade before it appeared as a choral symphony – and one can indeed imagine that Rubbra made the switch because of a natural inclination toward coherent, tightly structured arguments. That said, if he hadn’t used the title “symphony” I suppose I wouldn’t have guessed (despite the formal cohesiveness of the work). The most important thing, however, is that it is filled with wonderful music, often agonizingly beautiful and haunting. So why am I hesitant to call it "great"? Well, Rubbra sets the narrative as recitative. Not only does this to an extant wreak havoc on his forms, but after the deeply moving Regina coeli movement, which builds up to what seems for all purposes to be the climax of the work we get … well, Rubbra chooses to set an unaccompanied piece of text for the narrator. I suppose the profundity of the text is supposed to serve as some kind of apex, but instead the effect is such a lapse of good taste that it almost beggars belief – it’s as if Mahler had decided to interrupt the last movement of his ninth symphony with a narrator telling us “look, this is really profound; seriously” before giving the microphone back to the orchestra. I suppose Rubbra’s devoutness was sufficiently strong for him not to notice how the recited passage almost ruins the work, but it does. Still, he does eventually get the music back on track, and the final movements are often gorgeously haunting.

Had the symphony been an unqualified masterpiece were it not for the mentioned lapse of judgment? I don’t know. Overall it is a deeply moving work, though I suppose there are some stretches that seem a bit meandering – filling in gaps to make sure that the entire story is told by engaging in a bit of note-spinning to get us to the next rapturous moment. But given the quality of those moments I am inclined to forget that. It is, overall, at least a very rewarding work.

To open the program we get the earlier The Morning Watch (yes, Rubbra’s teacher Holst wrote a piece on the same text, and the connection isn’t lost on the listeners). It opens with a slow, reflective instrumental section, gradually building up for the entrance of the chorus. It is also definitely the work of an eminent symphonist, but I cannot, to be honest, conjure up much enthusiasm for it – the thematic material is non-descript, and the whole affair strikes me as little more than a skillfully written occasional piece.

As mentioned the performances are superb. The BBC National Chorus & Orchestra of Wales are marvelous throughout under Hickox’s direction (and if you cannot always make out the words of the chorus you can always consult the booklet – or just wallow in the atmosphere if the text doesn’t appeal to you as much as it did to Rubbra). The soloists are overall very good. Lynne Dawson’s Mary Magdalene is superbly sung, but her voice is perhaps not quite big enough to take command of the stage; as opposed to Della Jones, who does the recitatives magnificently. Stephen Roberts is very good as well, though he doesn’t really have that much to work with. The recorded sound is magnificent, and overall this disc does – despite its flaws – deserve a firm recommendation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Not My Favorite, But... Jan. 4 2014
By J. R. Trtek - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Edmund Rubbra is a much-neglected composer, many of whose works -- symphonies, quartets, the violin concerto -- deserve much wider play. The two reviewers who preceded me here give a much more learned account of the two works on this disc than I could, but let me add a few personal impressions. In general, with some exceptions, I'm not a big fan of music for orchestra and voice, at least for that composed later than, say, the mid-nineteenth century. Baroque oratorios and Classical masses are usually a joy, but for some reason I have a hard time enjoying most works in that vein that were written later. As I began to listen to Rubbra's Symphony No. 9, composed for orchestra, chorus and vocal soloists, I experienced my usual lack of interest in such compositions. By the halfway mark of the first movement, however, I was willing to admit that my own personal bias had been softened greatly by what I'd been hearing. The piece is elegiac and flowing, never getting strident, though on occasion there is an earnest swelling of tone and volume. For my taste, it does perhaps lack some contrast during the journey, but it's somber and compelling. The Morning Watch, a bit less than one-third the length of the symphony, is very much in the same vein -- indeed, one could almost imagine it as part of the symphony. This release gets my recommendation, and if you keep in mind my prejudice toward compositions of this type, that's saying a lot.


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