When John Joubert passed away earlier this year Kenneth Woods wrote a tribute to him for Classical Source (link below). It was Woods who conducted the world-premiere of Joubert’s opera Jane Eyre, a concert-performance (reviewed, link below) that has since been issued by Somm (unfortunately retaining mood-breaking applause; there is a world of difference being in a venue sharing with others and auditioning after the event). While a staging of Jane would no doubt be welcome, the opera is a powerful listening experience on its own terms, feeding the imagination, and (to my mind) being atmospherically akin to Britten’s setting of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.
In revising Jane, Joubert cut some of the orchestral passages – a shame given the quality of the opera – but Joubert had the wit to re-use the discarded material as the basis of his Third Symphony “on themes from the opera Jane Eyre”. It is Woods’s colleague William Boughton who introduces this impressive Symphony (completed in 2017), full of atmosphere, personas and gripping ideas, dramatic and lyrical, that feed and nourish five movements and close-on thirty-five minutes. Like the opera, the music paints pictures and sustains scenarios.
If with the Piano Concerto (1958) it is less-easy to discern a fully-fledged creative personality, it’s certainly an accomplished piece, and very likeable; and if you respond to Bartók, Prokofiev and (neoclassical) Stravinsky, you will do so to Joubert, music of energy and impassioned long lines in the outer movements (quite jazzy in the Finale and the cadenza is a corker), whereas sparseness, emotional rhetoric and soulfulness inhabit the slow one. Martin Jones’s mastery of the solo part is complete, and, throughout, Boughton and BBCNOW ensure best results for this communicative and shrewd composer.
I do wish though that the recorded sound was better – less thin and strident (is Hoddinott Hall like this in reality?), with the orchestra also needing greater presence in the Concerto. Nevertheless, recommended for the music.