PETER RACINE FRICKER (1920-1990): Symphonies No. 1, Op. 9, No. 2, Op. 14, No. 3, Op. 36 & No. 4, Op. 43, Comedy Overture, Op. 32, Rondo Scherzoso.
Catalogue Number: 10T001
Description: Fricker was a major British symphonist of the 20th century, and widely acknowledged as such in the 1950s and 60s when he was actually writing his tough, dramatic, meticulously wrought symphonic works. He fell out of favour not long after for three main reasons; his doggedly individual idiom never failed to make use of forms considered obsolete by the avant garde - sonata form, rondo (a favourite), fugue, and symphonic, concerto and string quartet structures in general. At the same time, his highly chromatic extended tonality was branded 'atonal' and therefore 'difficult'; both descriptions are inaccurate and inadequate, as the compelling, dynamic works presented here effortlessly demonstrate. And thirdly, he took on a professorship in Santa Barbara, which took him out of the public and critical eye in his home country. His alleged 'atonality' might be better understood as akin to what Sorabji called 'metatonality', broadly meaning key relationships and transitions that have nothing to do with traditional functional progressions yet make perfect theoretical sense and moreover generate thrilling juxtapositions. The big, muscular First is relatively conventional in form and tonality, with sonata-form outer movements bracketing an arch form slow movement and a kind of two-part scherzo. All three movements of the Second are based on rondo form, ingeniously adapted to fulfil symphonic needs. The symphony contains passages of intense, rhythmic drive, culminating in a thrillingly driven finish, and this carries over into the Third, which even at half an hour's duration feels compressed, so tense and urgent is its dramatic progression. The Fourth, a deeply felt memorial for Fricker's teacher, Seiber, departs from convention by being in a single span divided into ten sections, centered around a tragic elegy. The work is one of deep mourning, punctuated by episodes of unrestrained fury, and builds an inexorable momentum through its diverse episodes. 2 CDs. BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra; Bryden Thomson, Albert Rosen, Edward Downes and Maurice Handford (broadcast between Sept. 12 and Oct. 7, 1980. Stereo).