Ruth Gipps: Orchestral Works, Volume 2. © 2022 Chandos Records Ltd

CD Spotlight

A Magnificent CD

GEOFF PEARCE listens to music by Ruth Gipps

'The BBC Philharmonic responds magnificently ...'


This is a great CD, showcasing a composer not widely known outside the UK, although this is changing, and if the works presented on this disc are any indication, here is a fine composer whose works are quite individual in style but reminiscent of some of the other fine English composers of the twentieth century. There is plenty to engage the listener, and little that would repel, as Ruth Gipps (1921-1999) was quite a vocal critic of some of the avant garde.

Chanticleer, Op 28, is all that is left of an opera based on farmyard animals which the composer did not complete. This piece is designated as being written in 1944 and dedicated to Walter Susskind, but there is no evidence that it received a performance. Chanticleer is a rooster, and whilst the composer does not seek to emulate the sounds of the various animals that form part of the drama, there are certainly representations of some of the characters. This piece is beautifully orchestrated, and there is colour and atmosphere on every page, and a lovely slow middle section, featuring fine wind playing, especially by the cor anglais.

Listen — Ruth Gipps: Chanticleer, Op 28
(CHAN 20161 track 1, 5:02-5:55) ℗ 2022 Chandos Records Ltd :

The Oboe Concerto is the next work. It was written for the life long friend and fellow oboist of the composer Marion Brough, and was composed in 1941, receiving its first performance a year later. It is in 3 movements and lightly scored, and is really a marvellous piece. It has to be remembered that Ruth Gipps was a fine oboist and was a student of Leon Goossens. She also learned from Vaughan Williams and Gordon Jacob so there is no surprise that It is quite pastoral in nature, like many of the oboe concertos written in the UK at around the same time, even through England was at war and the news was often grim. Katherine Needleman, an American oboist with the Baltimore Symphony, has performed this work, but to my knowledge has not commercially recorded it yet. I do hope that this very fine recording with the soloist Juliana Koch encourages more players to take on this work. Juliana Koch, who is a principal player with the London Symphony Orchestra, is, to my mind, one of the finest oboists I have ever heard. Her sound is clear and warm, and she is a musically very expressive player who phrases beautifully and brings this piece, in all its various moods, alive. I would encourage anyone who loves the oboe to buy this disc and be as amazed as I was by the artistry of this impressive soloist.

Listen — Ruth Gipps: Andante (Oboe Concerto, Op 20)
(CHAN 20161 track 3, 0:00-0:49) ℗ 2022 Chandos Records Ltd :

Death on a Pale Horse Op 25 (1943) drew its inspiration from paintings of Rembrandt and William Blake. It is elegiac in nature, depicting the personification of war.

Listen — Ruth Gipps: Death on a Pale Horse
(CHAN 20161 track 5, 2:45-3:40) ℗ 2022 Chandos Records Ltd :

The final work here is the Symphony No 3, Op 57, written in 1965 and receiving a performance a year later with the composer's own London Repertoire Orchestra, then its first professional performance in 1968. This four-movement work also has some beautiful moments of pastoral music, as well as considerable variety. Ruth Gipps shows herself to be a fine orchestrator and is melodically inventive and writes with great assurity.

Listen — Ruth Gipps: Finale (Symphony No 3, Op 57)
(CHAN 20161 track 9, 8:14-9:11) ℗ 2022 Chandos Records Ltd :

This is a magnificent CD by any standards. I had not heard of conductor Rumon Gamba before, but I believe he is well known to audiences in the UK. The BBC Philharmonic responds magnificently to his direction, and I know he has recorded other works by Ruth Gipps. She is a composer that is certainly equal to her male peers, at the very least, and her style, whilst being entirely her own, certainly shows her affinity with her teachers, and I feel that as the public get to hear and know her works, she will earn a strong affection. I hope so, because her music is far to good to pass up.

Copyright © 13 September 2022 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia






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