Joubert at 90: The Choral and Organ Music of John Joubert
John Joubert: Key Works
Inspired by the tensions brought about by the Apartheid system of government in his native South Africa and the example of Alan Paton’s great novel Cry the Beloved Country, Joubert’s Symphony No 2 unfolds in a single, continuous movement divided into two main sections: one slow, one fast. Heart breaking, elegiac passages confront violent orchestral interjections - music drawn from traditional African melodies, most noticeably in the doleful Zulu lament for solo horn in the second section.
South of the Line (1985), 29 Mins
The five poems which constitute the text of South of the Line were written by Thomas Hardy at the turn of the century in response to the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War. They reflect the considerable body of opinion in this country which was against the war, and contain some of the most powerful expressions of anti-war sentiment to be found in English literature. This rewarding, substantial work is scored for SATB choir, timpani, percussion, two pianos and soprano and baritone soloists and is one of John's most important choral works.
String Quartet No.2 (1977), 29 mins
This work draws upon an alternate spelling G-E-G sharp the three-note "Muss es sein?" motif from Beethoven's last quartet, Op. 135, creating an ambiguous E minor-major connotation throughout. Later the quartet quotes Shostakovich's motto ‘D-E flat-C-B’ in a movement dedicated to the composer and revisits material featured in Joubert first quartet. Both works are dedicated to his wife. String Quartet No.2 is a masterclass in the manipulation and development of themes.
Temps Perdu (1984), 22 mins
Jobert’s work for thirteen solo strings was inspired by Marcel Proust’s sequence of novels, À la recherche du Temps Perdu, particularly Swann’s Way, which deals with the narrator’s childhood and adolescence. Joubert did not wish to recreate Proust in terms of music, but explore the concept of memory in his own work. Delving into his own juvenilia, he reworked and extended an unnamed string piece which often quotes Saint-Saëns’ Violin Sonata in D minor.
An English Requiem (2010), 45 mins
An English Requiem unashamedly models itself on Brahm’s A German Requiem but rather than simply serving as liturgy it is more accurately described as a mediation on death itself. This six-movement work for boy choir, choir and orchestra set texts from both the Old and New Testaments and was commissioned by the Grimmitt Trust for the 2010 Gloucester Three Choirs Festival. The Times wrote the ‘one could easily imagine Elgar, VW, Howells, Britten and Walton nodding their heads in approval (and, perhaps, recognition) as Joubert’s majestic climaxes, astringent harmonies and poignant melodies echoed around the Gothic arches’.
St Mark Passion (2015), 45 mins
Joubert’s St Mark Passion for 2 tenors, 3 baritones, SATB chorus, cello and organ is the composer’s most recent choral work and was first performed in Wells Cathedral on Palm Sunday 2016 on the composers 89th birthday. Familiar English hymns take the place of chorales providing the opportunity for the congregation to join the performance.
John Joubert: An Appreciation
As a student at Birmingham University in 1968, I had my first encounter with John Joubert, then Reader in the Music Department. Although a full participant in the departmental work, seminars and tutorials, lecturing perhaps on unexpected subjects like nineteenth-century Italian opera or perhaps more appropriately, Marenzio and Gesualdo, generations of musical alumni will chiefly remember his Motet Choir sessions, distinct from the University Choir: Wednesday afternoons, not quite obligatory… just the BMus students knocking out some tolerably advanced choral works to an impressive standard: Copland, Hindemith, Gordon Crosse, Kenneth Leighton, Peter Dickinson, Malcolm Williamson, Richard Rodney Bennett, not to mention more standard repertoire.
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