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Joseph Holbrooke(1878-1958)

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Well, well, CPO have done it again :)

A cd scheduled for release in late April of four orchestral works by Joseph Holbrooke-the Tone Poems "Ulalume" and "The Viking" together with the Overture "Amontillado" and the Variations on 'Three Blind Mice'.

Holbrooke is the almost completely forgotten member of that group of British composers who came to prominence at the beginning of the 20th century and were part of the so-called British Musical Renaissance. His contemporaries were Vaughan Williams(b.1872), Holst(b.1874), Rootham(b.1875), Brian(b.1876), Dunhill(b.1877), Boughton(b.1878), Bridge(b.1879), Ireland(b.1879), Scott(b.1879), Bainton(b.1880), Foulds(b.1880), Bax(b.1883), Dyson(b.1883) and Bowen(b.1889). Each of these composers has-to a greater or lesser extent-has had a revival of interest in recent years while others have long been recognised as master composers.

For a brief period before the outbreak of the First World War Holbrooke was lauded as one of the most talented of the lot. Arthur Nikisch, the great conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, called Holbrooke a genius and the esteemed critic Ernest Newman rated him more highly than Richard Strauss. Holbrooke was nicknamed 'the English Wagner'. His Tone Poems-many inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe-were regularly featured in concert programmes conducted by people like Beecham, Nikisch and Hans Richter.

After 1918 his music faded from the concert hall although his operas were still performed for a short time. Holbrooke's working-class origins(a background he shared with Havergal Brian) and his aggressive, eccentric and intemperate nature made him, increasingly an outsider in British musical circles and by his death he was almost completely ignored or forgotten.

Marco Polo issued a couple(?) of Holbrooke discs almost twenty years ago now(I have the Leaper collection of tone poems which includes 'Ulalume' and 'The Raven'), Hyperion recorded the (frankly not very impressive) Piano Concerto No.1 and Cameo Classics are promising some sort of Holbrooke cycle but it is fascinating that CPO seems to have jumped in first :)

More on a potentially very interesting composer-

Could he just be a British Langgaard? ;D


--- Quote from: Dundonnell on April 07, 2009, 05:50:52 AM ---
Hyperion recorded the (frankly not very impressive) Piano Concerto No.1

--- End quote ---

Thank you for this comment. Since this is the only Holbrooke I have, and it is probably the weakest of the concerti in the series that I own, I was about to totally dismiss this composer. Maybe I will explore more now.

I remember being impressed by the 4 Futurist Dances for piano on hearing them many years ago. I didn't find them at all "forgettable", although I'm surprised to read that Rob Barnett reckons they were "lampooning" composers such as Ornstein or Schenberg.

Hav just ordered this.  We shall see:


--- Quote from: vandermolen on June 27, 2009, 10:27:18 AM ---Hav just ordered this.  We shall see:
--- End quote ---

Why can't we just start with playing one of the Marco Polo releases - that's been lingering on our shelves for fifteen years at least? I only own one of the two and will give it a spin first, before ordering yet another cd.  :-[

I mean the one with Adrian Leaper conducting half of Bratislava's orchestral players (the Bratislava RSO, still "Czecho-Slovak" in 1992) and Slovak Philharmonic Choir in Ulalume as well, but coupled with the Bronwen Overture, The Bells Prelude, The Raven, Byron.

A `British Langgaard'?  :o I would be very interested to hear his eight symphonies (1907, 1907, 1925, 1928, 1928, 1929, 1930s) though.


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