Two rarely heard symphonies from Ruth Gipps

Ruth Gipps: Orchestral Works

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Rumon Gamba

Ruth Gipps (20.02.1921 – 23.02.1999) was an English composer, oboist and pianist. She performed her first composition at the age of 8 in one of the numerous music festivals she entered and in 1937 Gipps entered the Royal College of Music. As an instrumentalist she aspired to have lessons from such greats as Solomon (piano) and Leon Goosens (oboe). Indeed she became a highly accomplished pianist and included the Piano Concerto of Sir Arthur Bliss in her repertoire.

This release from Chandos contains two world premiere recordings; namely Symphony No. 4, Op. 61 and Knight in Armour, Op. 8. The fourth symphony is a work that I first heard in 1983, performed by conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sir John Pritchard, in a BBC broadcast¹ and this led me to discover more about this talented composer. I believed the Symphony No. 4 to be a truly great work that deserved a wider audience and this new performance has further consolidated my view of the work. Knight in Armour, Op. 8 was conducted by none other than Sir Henry Wood at the last night of the 1943 Proms.

There is a recording of Gipps’ Symphony No. 2 performed by the Munich Symphony Orchestra conducted by Douglas Bostock as part of a 10 CD set entitled The British Symphonic Collection on the Classico label but this performance shows the work in a far better light. The remaining work on this disc is the short lyrical Song for Orchestra, Op. 33 written in 1948. This piece contains a delightful nine-bar oboe song, a solo which Gipps surely intended for herself, that reappears variously from strings, clarinets, and solo horn before a two-bar orchestral climax signals the faster middle section, in which the solo instrument is a bass clarinet.

Rumon Gamba and BBC National Orchestra of Wales seem to revel in this vivid orchestral writing. Throughout these pieces there are hints of Sibelius, Walton, and Vaughan Williams but Gipps’ orchestral music clearly has a voice of its own. Chandos are to be congratulated on bringing these works to the attention of the record buying public and we have no hesitation in making this our Collectors’ Choice. Let us hope that enthusiasts are willing to go out and buy this recording and perhaps then this could become the first in a series of recordings of the orchestral works of this unjustifiably neglected composer.

iClassical rating: 

¹ And recorded, for personal use, on my treasured Nakamichi cassette recorder!