RODNEY NEWTON (b.1945): Orchestral Music, Vol. 1 - Symphonies No. 1 and No. 4, Distant Nebulae.
Catalogue Number: 03T009
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0459
Description: So here we have another excellent British symphonist, previously almost unknown as such; we appear to be in no danger of running out of them. Newton has written extensively for brass, and as an orchestral percussionist and tympanist for many years, he clearly knows the orchestra from the inside out, but this CD is the first outing for either of these early symphonies, from the late 1960s and mid-70s. Both are tonal, the Fourth considerably more chromatic than the first, and fit firmly in the British symphonic tradition. The first wears its influences quite openly - by the composer's admission, Vaughan Williams (especially in the slow movement, particularly a very modal interlude and the lyrical episodes in the final rondo) and Shostakovich (fragments of the wartime symphonies) were both important to him at the time. The work has a fine sense of drama and lyricism, and is an accomplished first attempt by a developing composer in his early 20s. The Fourth is a much more confidently original piece, although it still belongs in the same genre - apparently the composer has subsequently explored serialism, but by this time he was nowhere near that point, and the piece is still firmly tonal. The first movement, "Metamorphoses" is tense and edgy series of transformations of the initial theme; the elegiac slow movement suggests a solemn funeral cortège. The malevolent scherzo that follows strongly recalls Shostakovichian bitter irony as it develops as a brutal marching fugato. The finale is a passacaglia which accumulates weight and might, as these things do, followed by a hushed epilogue. Distant Nebulae is a cosmic nocturne, meditating on the mysterious nightscape of Ives' The Unanswered Question. Málaga Philharmonic Orchestra; Paul Mann.