Colin Davis conducts Fricker’s The Vision of Judgement and Symphony No. 5

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Peter Racine Fricker
LABELS: Lyrita
ALBUM TITLE: Fricker
WORKS: The Vision of Judgement; Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Jane Manning (soprano), Robert Tear (tenor); Leeds Festival Chorus; RLPO/Charles Groves; BBC SO/Colin Davis
CATALOGUE NO: REAM.1124  

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In 1950s Britain, Peter Racine Fricker was enough of a celebrity to make a cameo appearance in Kingsley Amis’s novel Lucky Jim. His The Vision of Judgement (1957) was welcomed as a major contribution to the British choral repertoire. Then his star dipped and plummeted. A lot of this had to do with the epochal shift in ‘new music’ ideology in the 1960s (Fricker’s ‘modernism’ now deemed parochial and old-fashioned), but now the battle-lines have faded, how does The Vision of Judgement appear today? It needed more than one listen, partly because the 1980 radio recording recesses a lot of important detail (including, alas, the two formidable soloists), and partly because the performance could probably have done with at least one more rehearsal – some parts aren’t quite in focus, texturally or structurally. But it sounds as though there’s a truly impressive work in here, capable of exciting grand gestures, but most personal in
the sensitive elegiac sections – the
a cappella ‘Libera me’ is a highlight. 

The Fifth Symphony appeared two decades later, but I’d have guessed it was the earlier work, more obviously indebted to Hindemith, less imaginatively resourceful than Vision, and far more redolent of post-war greyness. It’s a hard listen, with sparse returns.

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Stephen Johnson