JOHN GARDNER (1917-2011): Symphony No. 2 in E Flat, Op. 166, JOHN VEALE (1922-2006): Symphony No. 2 in D Minor.

Catalogue Number: 08S001

Label: Dutton Epoch

Reference: CDLX 7332

Format: SACD hybrid

Price: $18.98

Description: Gardner was a prolific composer in most forms, from light music via songs, carols (including several very well-known ones), hymns, choral and church works, to large-scale concert works and opera. His tough, wartime First Symphony (10J083) was taken up by Barbirolli, and he was highly regarded in his early career, but largely forgotten in his later life. The 1984 Second Symphony is a conventional but convincing specimen of mainstream 20th century tonal symphonic writing. The worst one can say about it is that Gardner doesn't seem quite clear which towering figure of the twentieth century he wants to emulate; Sibelius for sure, but the first movement's martial conflicts are clearly derived from Shostakovich. Not much is reminiscent of his peers among British composers; the closest comparison is probably Walton. The effervescent textures of his lighter scores surface in the imaginative scoring of the lively scherzo, but the monumental, tragic, slow movement, the emotional heart of the work, returns to the composer's serious idiom, again with Shostakovich's fingerprints all over it. The triumphant finale could have been (but was not) assembled from a British film score of some four decades earlier, providing a rousing conclusion to the work. On the other hand, Veale’s 1965 symphony is patently the work of a man who was also a fine film composer. There’s a sense of narrative through its four movements and a very strong rhythmic presence especially in the scherzo (which may make you think of the Caribbean rhythms of Malcolm Arnold’s fourth symphony) and the finale (which could an orchestrated version of a smaller combo playing chase music in a 1970s American adventure film). Gardner’s symphony is the girl you take home to meet your mother; Veale’s is the one you... well, you know!


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