Adrian Leaper: Joseph Holbrooke - Byron

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Joseph Holbrooke - Byron (1904)

Conducted by Adrian Leaper with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and Slovak Philharmonic Choir.

Holbrooke's temperament is not unlike that of Edgar Allan Poe, for whose writings he has a marked affection. A rich imagination, with leanings towards the morbid, the bizarre, and that indefinable neutral territory which separates the two, an almost unlimited inventiveness, and enthusiasm which amounts almost to exuberance, and above all a sense of rhythm which approaches the phenomenal. These constitute the basis of Holbrooke's musical temperament. (Edwin Evans 1904)

In his restless search after new tone-qualities, he has outdistanced Berlioz, out-heroded Strauss. His harmony too was as original at that time as his orchestration. One thought that Ravel was the originator of certain bell-chords, but here is Holbrooke revelling in them in 1900.

I shall always regret that I knew so little of Holbrooke's music when I wrote a book on modern harmony. I unwittingly did him a great injustice. Holbrooke has found a subject to his heart's desire and has produced a unique work. 'The Bells' was finished in 1903. As for Queen Mab, it has recently (1919) successfully been performed in Paris and Manchester. When are we going to hear it in London? (Eaglefield Hull)

I have conducted many of Holbrooke's compositions, and will say that I consider him one of the greatest composers living. He has strength, fantasy, poetical and musical imagination, and he masters his orchestra in a perfect manner. (Artur Nikisch)

Holbrooke can do quite easily and unconsciously what Strauss has only done half a dozen times in his career - he can write a big, heartfelt melody that searches us to the very bone. (Ernest Newman)

This small choral work was written in appreciation of Keats' panegyric on Byron. It was first performed by the Leeds Choral Union in 1904 and was conducted by the composer. For this work he was paid £20.