Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere

Special Offer
Complete Chopin
17 discs
Pre-order for £100


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

Works for Voice by György Kurtág


Best Seller

Symphony for solo piano

Chopin Piano Concerto No.1

Schubert Piano sonata

Schubert symphony No. 9

Katherine Watson (Sop)

From Severn to Somme

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

To gain a 10% discount, use the link below & the code MusicWeb10

Frederic CLIFFE (1857-1931)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor Op. 1 (1889) [43.25]
Cloud and Sunshine, Orchestral Picture (1890) [14.26]
Malmö Opera Orchestra/Christopher Fifield
rec. 6-8 May 2003, St. Johannes Church, Malmö, Sweden. DDD
STERLING CDS1055-2 [57.54]

A long-standing review of Cliffe’s Symphony by Rob Barnett is on site - with ancillary biographical information which I won’t reprise - but this has been my first opportunity to listen to it. It’s a powerfully confident work just shy of three-quarters of an hour, written in 1889 when the composer was in his early thirties. What’s more it’s purposeful and is made to feel so by virtue of the fine sense of direction established by Christopher Fifield and his Malmö forces.

There are clear influences. There’s an aura of Wagnerianism about some cadences and strong brass blocks in the first movement as there are also clear signs of the absorption of Mendelssohn – via lithe episodes – and Schumann. But that would be to overlook the quietly efficient handling of material, the play of string against brass, and the adept reprise of material. In all these respects Cliffe proves an admirable composer. There’s a carnivalesque quality to the Scherzo, a life-affirming geniality, and the ensuing Ballade, once more, gently bathes in Wagnerian waters, with deft wind solos over a warm string carpet. Here though Cliffe ensures a contrasting section full of brassy drama that leads on to graceful lyrical warmth. This movement was quite often extracted at the turn of the century and played separately. One can hear why. Purposefulness reappears in the finale, with its obligatory fugal passage –a bit academic-sounding as these things are so often prone to sounding, but the peroration makes up for it in grandeur and resplendence. This barely-known work receives excellent advocacy. The church acoustic sound expands well to contain but not cramp those brass outbursts.

The coupling is the ‘Orchestral picture’ called Cloud and Sunshine which was composed the following year. It’s a concert overture, in other words, moving from a stern opening via geniality, some doffing the hat to Schumann, but here too the recently deceased Wagner clearly looms large for Cliffe. A less arresting work than the Symphony it is more than competently done.

The excellent and comprehensive notes are by Christopher Fifield himself. Cliffe can certainly stand proudly in the tradition of late nineteenth-century British symphonists but it’s salutary to reflect that his compositional career trailed off. There was another British composer born in the same year as Cliffe who was soon to announce himself on a world stage, consigning Cliffe and many like him to relative obscurity.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett



We are currently offering in excess of 52,619 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger