Orchestral Works, Vol. 2: Symphony No. 3; Oboe Concerto; Chanticleer Overture; Death on the Pale Horse
Juliana Koch (oboe); BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba
Chandos CHAN 20161 75:57 mins
By my reckoning this is the year’s fourth album devoted all or in part to Ruth Gipps: not bad for a composer of conservative mien who used to loudly complain of neglect after the BBC and other bodies decided that the British musical scene needed a big injection of modernity. Chandos and Rumon Gamba first took up the cause in 2018 with an album of orchestral works; Covid might be responsible for the four-year delay before the emergence of this sequel.
It certainly can’t be for the lack of strong pieces. Each of this foursome, the bulk from the 1940s, offers pungent and individual delights, starting with the farmyard portrait of the overture Chanticleer, remnant of an abandoned opera, launched in ear-grabbing style with snarling brass chords. The Oboe Concerto, like Gipps’s Horn Concerto, should be a welcome gift for any soloist eager to show dexterity in multiple moods, from the war-torn and violent to the gracefully plaintive. Juliana Koch relishes every moment of this very attractive work.
Wartime clouds hover more darkly over Death on the Pale Horse, a brooding miniature tone poem with a chilling sting in its tail. Finally we reach 1965 and the Third Symphony, a little sprawling at 36 minutes, but packed with so many striking moments, from dramatic climaxes to wistful wind solos, that you have to sit back and luxuriate. Throughout the album the BBC Philharmonic play with bright colours, a sharp attack and swaggering energy – just what this dip into Gipps deserves.