ALBUM TITLE: Joubert
WORKS: Piano Trio, Op. 113; Piano Sonatas Nos 1-3; String Quartet No. 2; Landscapes, Op. 129; Lyric Fantasy, Op. 144
PERFORMER: Patricia Rozario (soprano), David Chadwick (violin), Anna Joubert (cello), Mark Bebbington, John McCabe (piano), Brodsky Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 060-2
South African-born John Joubert has been in Britain since 1946 and in Birmingham for the past 45 years, teaching at the University and contributing greatly to the city’s musical life. In the mid-1980s he took early retirement from the University in order to devote his time more fully to composing new works. Birmingham City Council commendably heads the list of sponsors of this double album marking his 80th birthday year. Pride of place goes to Joubert’s 1977 Second Quartet, an impressive piece played with great conviction by the Brodsky Quartet, in the best recording of the set. The work grows out of Beethoven’s ‘Muss es sein?’ motif, but its figuration owes more to Shostakovich, and indeed the third of the four movements is a muted Adagio in memory of ‘DSCH’. If the Quartet lacks much extended lyrical melody, there’s plenty in the expansive 1986 Piano Trio, albeit sometimes uncomfortably doubled by piano and a string instrument. A trio including the composer’s cellist daughter Anna Joubert plays this well, and also partners the excellent Patricia Rozario in the 1992 Landscapes, a setting of five English poems which are sometimes idyllic, sometimes angry, about humanity’s relationship with nature.
On disc two, devoted to solo piano music, the trio’s pianist Mark Bebbington is gently persuasive in the 2000 Lyric Fantasy on themes from Joubert’s opera Jane Eyre. John McCabe confidently meets the tougher challenge of the three sonatas (1957, 1972, 2006). As recorded, these are sometimes uningratiating in sound, with much thick chordal writing in the lower register. But they’re again substantial and convincingly argued – typical products, in fact, of Joubert’s long and distinguished career.