COMPOSERS: George Frederick Bristow
LABELS: Royal Northern Sinfonia
ALBUM TITLE: George Frederick Bristow
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Overture to Rip Van Winkle; Winter’s Tale Overture
PERFORMER: Royal Northern Sinfonia/Rebecca Miller
CATALOGUE NO: New World Records 97068-2
To avoid any possible confusion, George Frederick Bristow’s Jullien Symphony of 1854 (named after the famous conductor Louis-Antoine) is indeed his Second, while the F sharp minor Symphony, recorded with great distinction in the early 1990s by Neeme Järvi for Chandos (CHAN 9169), is No. 3. Anyone who admires the Mendelssohnian grace and neo-classical precision of Gounod’s and Saint-Saëns’s early symphonies should find Bristow’s glowing cantabile and subtle cross-referencing to Beethoven, Weber and Schumann congenial. The lilting charm of the second movement Allegretto also pays gentle homage to Schubert, yet Bristow integrates these various influences with such skill and conviction that they never become a distraction.
Providing the perfect fillers and composed around the same time as the Symphony are the infectiously lively, unashamedly Weberesque overtures to Bristow’s 1855 opera Rip Van Winkle – hailed at the time as heralding a home-grown American operatic tradition, which sadly failed to materialise – and Winter’s Tale, intended as a curtain-raiser for Shakespeare’s play. Avoiding any sense of a dutiful run-through of neglected repertoire, Rebecca Miller inspires the Royal Northern Sinfonia to play with captivating spontaneity, heartfelt phrasing and immaculate internal balancing, enhanced by impactful sonics from Simon Fox-Gál. A winner.