Notes and Editorial Reviews
Deeply committed to a beauteous aesthetic, composer John Robertson's second album Symphony No. 1 once more delivers a neoclassical triumph with tremendous potential for repeated listening. This release flaunts an unapologetically exuberant elegance ever-present in the composer's oeuvre. The heart of the album is, of course, Robertson's Symphony No. 1, a three-movement epos that explores the vast realm of classical tonality. While the first movement starts out touching upon 20th-century harmonies reminiscent of Prokofiev, the second one already harkens back to the late Romantic school. Still, remaining very much a contemporary composition in its essence, this symphony offers plenty of innovation: not only does it push the limits of the
traditional symphonic fast-slow-fast movement order, it also spearheads intensely lyrical soloistic parts such as the third movement's elaborate solo violin introduction, from which all other instruments organically spring forth. In the same vein, the Suite for Orchestra Op. 46 is easy on the ear, oscillating between the exaltation of the introductory Fanfare, the natural grace of the subsequent Waltz, the profound tristesse of the Elegy, and the uplifting, resolute splendor of the concluding March. The form of musical variations, the calling card of a composer's skill and craftsmanship throughout the ages, receives an apt treatment in the form of Robertson's Variations for small orchestra, Op. 14. In just over 18 minutes, they explore the possibilities of thematic development from every imaginable angle, ranging from the solidly-classical to the breezingly and self-confidently outlandish. John Robertson's straightforward formal choices render all of these compositions intuitively accessible, yet make no compromises in terms of technical and musical complexity, which remain sophisticated throughout. Symphony No. 1 proves that new music can be rooted in tradition, yet offer a breath of creative fresh air – effortlessly and naturally.
The Symphony opens, à la Shostakovich, with a sombre and foreboding 5-note motif that sets the tone for the whole work, as that key motto theme returns many times under different guises. The main motif returns, albeit with a distinctly different outlook, to open the second movement and fully blossoms throughout as an ardent expression of longing and aspiration. The jaunty, out of character demeanor of the final movement eventually gives way to a remarkable transition back to the main impetus of this symphony, and this is where John Robertson truly reveals his “symphonist” credentials.
This is music of our time yet steeped in tradition that should be a guiding light forward.
– Classical Music Sentinel Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony No. 1, Op. 18 by John Robertson
Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra
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