JOHN ROBERTSON (b.1943): Symphony No. 1, Op. 18, Suite for Orchestra, Op. 46, Variations for Small Orchestra, Op. 14.
Catalogue Number: 07U063
Label: Navona Records
Description: Like the disc we offered last year with the 2nd Symphony (08T058), this disc presents three of Robertson's full-blooded, unabashedly tonal and Romantic scores. The Suite comprises four movements; an introduction with fanfares, a swaggering waltz, a lyrical, stirring elegy and a breezy march, half Sousa and half Pomp and Circumstance. Variations is an early work in Robertson's output although he was in his 40s, and one of the composer's first successes which served to launch his ensuing career. The variations vary wildly in style and orchestration, perhaps betraying a degree of inexperience, but their treatment of the easy-going theme is certainly original, including a perky waltz, a tango, a pastoral 'slow movement' and a big, triumphant finale. The three-movement Symphony, at over half an hour, is an ambitious work, rather unusual in structure. Thematic material is introduced at the outset, after which the dynamic first movement is, unusually, composed largely in fugal textures. The elegiac slow movement is an extended, lyrical exploration of a motto theme heard in the slow introduction to the first movement; there seems to be some evidence that the composer might have been listening to some Tchaikovsky and Vaughan Williams around this time. A lively 'scherzo' is unexpectedly subjected to considerable development, revealing it to be the substance of the finale. Around the halfway point, though, a chill falls over the music and the work ends in a mood of resignation, with a bright shaft of hope at the very end. Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra; Anthony Armoré.