Rubbra: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 6

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 6
PERFORMER: BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox
This is the third issue in the critically acclaimed Hickox/Chandos Rubbra Symphonies series. Following Bruckner, Rubbra’s deeply held religious beliefs inspired complex polyphonic symphonies that grow organically rather than with strict formality. The Second Symphony is a warm and lyrical work but it also develops powerfully and forcefully like some vast cathedral of sound. Although there are Holst-like rhythms in the Scherzo, and echoes of Vaughan Williams, the music is essentially, individually, Rubbra. But it is the Sixth Symphony that is the wonder – an inspired, joyful, spiritual celebration. Hickox’s reading rivals the acclaimed Del Mar recording (Lyrita) that featured the Philharmonia on top form, particularly in the first movement with its magically mystical opening and its grand, bell-like sonorities. Hickox and the BBC’s Welsh orchestra, though, win through with Rubbra’s radiant slow movement, surely one of his most beautiful and mystically intense creations. Inspired by the view from the composer’s cottage in the Chiltern Hills and verses by the Italian poet Leopardi that speak of the interminable vastness of space and, beyond, unearthly silences and profoundest calm, it culminates in a magnificent, deeply-felt climax suggesting the awesome majesty of the heavens. Ian Lace