Chagrin: Symphonies Nos 1 & 2

Reviewed on Fri 11 Mar, 2016

Both symphonies are tough-minded but not forbidding. We have on display a lot of imagination, with pounding rhythms, quirky playfulness, gentle if tense lyrical passages and a great deal of intensity.

These are world premiere recordings, and bracing ones. Francis Chagrin (1905-1972) was a Romanian who reached the UK when he was in his early 30s. While studying music, he supported himself writing popular songs, and in Britain he wrote many film and TV scores, as well as music for commercials. He also founded what became the Society for the Promotion of New Music. Thus he had a wide musical range. These two symphonies show some of that, though he took the familiar view that symphonies are the place for the most serious musical statements. They are tough-minded but not forbidding. We have on display a lot of imagination, with pounding rhythms, quirky playfulness, gentle if tense lyrical passages and a great deal of intensity. What is clear yet again is here we have yet another little-known composer who has things to say and the ability to set out his music expressively and solidly. It's rather like meeting a stranger and discovering that they have stuff to convey that you haven't heard before and find refreshing. If you stick to your friends, you may never hear what strangers have on offer. The recording is realistic, and Martyn Brabbins's lucid accounts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra do Chagrin proud.
–Ivor Solomons