Saturday, 27 June 2015

Ruth Gipps: Symphony No.3 Introduction

The first piece I heard by Ruth Gipps was her Symphony No. 2 which was released on Classico (CLASSCD 274), coupled with Arthur Butterworth’s Symphony No.1, op.15. I was impressed with Gipps’ work and wondered what else was available. I recently discovered her Symphony No. 3, op.57 on a YouTube upload. In many ways this work appeals to me even more than the earlier example. I find it is more romantic and certainly sits fairly and squarely in the ‘English’ musical tradition.
Unfortunately, there is virtually no information on this Symphony available to form a reception history. It was first performed at the Duke Hall, Royal Academy of Music on 19 March 1966; The London Repertoire Orchestra was conducted by the composer. It was subsequently broadcast on the BBC on 29 October 1969 by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted Ruth Gipps. I have been unable to find any adverts for the concert or subsequent reviews. The author of the only major study on Gipps, Jill Halstead, has told me that by 1966 reviewers had stopped attending the London Repertoire Orchestra, and that is is unlikely that any critiques of the new symphony were written.  She further suggested that these concerts were ‘local’ and were not widely advertised.  Perhaps some notices will turn up later, and I can report back to readers.

However, I did locate the composer’s own discussion of the work in the contemporary Musical Events (March 1966). It makes interesting reading and I will post it later. The only other source of information is Halstead’s book Ruth Gipps: Anti-Modernism, Nationalism and Difference in English Music, (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2006). A detailed analysis of the Symphony is given including musical examples. The final sentence of Halstead’s study of the work is apposite: ‘Its agenda is the evocation of a warm, inviting view of life; it is content, some may say complacent, a criticism regularly made of nationalist composers of this and other eras.’

The Symphony No. 3 op.57 is written in four movements with approximate timings:
Moderato - Allegro moderato (12.48)
Theme and Variations (10.22)
Scherzo. Allegretto (7.26)
Andante - Allegro ritmico (10.18)

Ruth Gipps Symphony No.3 can currently be heard on YouTube. Listen it while you can. The composer’s own discussion of this symphony will be my next post. 

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