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CHAN 10283
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CHAN 10283

Smith: Symphony in A minor/ Andante for Clarinet and Orchestra/Symphony in C minor

The Classical Shop
release date: February 2005

Originally recorded in 2004


London Mozart Players

Howard Shelley

Angela Malsbury



St Silas The Martyr, Kentish Town, London


Rachel Smith


Jonathan Cooper

Michael Common


Record Label


Orchestral & Concertos

Total Time - 65:53
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Select Complete Single Disc for
  premiere recordings  

Symphony in A minor

  in a-Moll - en la mineur  
  Edited by Ian Graham-Jones  
1 I Allegro 7:46
2 II Andante 8:03
3 III Minuetto da capo. Allegretto - Trio 4:05
4 IV Allegro 6:21

Andante for Clarinet and Orchestra*

  Edited by Ian Graham-Jones  

Symphony in C minor

  in c-Moll - en ut mineur  
  Edited by Ian Graham-Jones  
6 I Grave - Allegro ma non troppo 13:32
7 II Allegretto amorevole 5:49
8 III Allegro man non troppo - 3:03
9 IV Allegro maestoso 10:07
Alice Mary Smith London Mozart Players, Shelley

Alice Mary Smith was the first British woman to have composed a symphony and had it performed. She studied privately at the Royal Academy of Music, and her Symphony in C minor, written at the age of twenty-four, was premiered at the London Musical Society in November 1863, receiving a good press. What a fine work it is, attractively tuneful throughout and with a practiced grasp of orchestration and form. It has a particularly delightful second movement, Allegretto amorevole, with a folksy principal melody of real memorability. The Scherzo opens with rollicking horns, and even the Victorian Maestoso finale lightens up a bit.

The romantic Andante of the A minor Symphony, a work that strikes the listener as immediately Mendelssohnian in its richly lyrical forward impetus, opens with the horns and then offers a flowing cantilena. The third movement is a little like a Ländler, the finale boisterous and confident. A lot of symphonies are written and heard occasionally and yet few are as enjoyable as this pair by Smith.

'The Andante for Clarinet and Orchestra, delicately scored and persuasively played here by Angela Malsbury, again demonstrates Smith's easy melodic gifts, very songlike and pleasing. Howard Shelley and the London Mozart Players are admirable advocates throughout, and this CD is most enjoyable.'
Penguin Guide to Compact Discs.

The fact that these works have, until now, remained unrecorded, perhaps bears witness to the fact that the discrimination against which Alice Mary Smith battled over a hundred years ago, has still not been entirely eradicated. Smith wrote by far the greatest number of orchestral works of any nineteenth-century British woman composer and the success of her orchestral and choral works gave rise to a heated discussion as to whether a woman could ever compose a work of greatness. Her finely crafted and inventive music is the story of a wife and mother battling against prejudice and, in the eyes of her contemporaries at least, succeeding.

All the works here receive their premiere recordings.

Howard Shelley is increasingly making a name for himself by conducting intriguing rarities on disc. In November Chandos released his recordings of music by the international pianist Robert Casadesus. His earlier disc of Hummel’s mandolin and trumpet concertos was very well received.

Alice Mary Smith’s music bears the influences of Mendelssohn and Spohr and although it uses traditionally classical structures, it is very distinctive in is use of lyrical subjects and daring modulations.

Alice Mary Smith was born into a well-to-do London family. After her early private studies at the Royal Academy of Music, in 1861 she was elected to the Musical Society of London as a lady associate, thereby gaining the opportunity of having her works performed at trial performances with other contemporary composers. After three chamber music works, her first orchestral composition, the Symphony in C minor, written at the age of twenty-four, was given its performance at a Musical Society meeting in November 1863. A review from the Illustrated London News noted ‘Miss Smith’s symphony especially, coming from the pen of a young lady, was a striking proof of the sound studies and high attainments of the female votaries of the art in this country’. The period 1870-72 saw New Philharmonic Society performances of more of her works, including a Clarinet Sonata, played by the distinguished clarinettist of the time, Henry Lazarus, with Smith at the piano. It was the Andante of this work which the composer orchestrated for performance, again with Lazarus, at the Norwich and Brighton Festivals and with the British Orchestral Society in London in 1872-3. It is one of her finest works, demonstrating an innate understanding of the instrument and exploiting its range and characteristics to the full. Her Symphony in A minor (an altogether more taut, mature work) came in 1876 and by 1878, works by Alice Mary Smith, or Mrs Meadows White (she married in 1867) were regularly performed both in London and the provinces, under some of the most eminent conductors of the day. However, the unceasing round of composing and attending performances of her works, alongside her domestic duties, took its toll on her health, and Alice Mary Smith died of typhoid fever in 1884 at the age of forty-five.

"Alice Mary Smith was the first British woman to have composed a symphony and have it performed. And what a fine work the C minor Symphony is, attractively tuneful throughout and with a fine grasp of orchestration and form... Howard Shelley and the London Mozart Players are admirable advocates throughtout, and this CD is most enjoyable."

The Penguin Guide - 1000 Greatest Classical Recordings 2011-12

It would be hard to find more persuasive advocates than Howard Shelley and the brilliant Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
The Guardian on CHAN 9893 (Reinecke)

The models for her symphonies are fairly obviously Mendelssohn and Beethoven (the C minor, the earlier of the two here is actually more arresting) – but there is a shapeliness to her melodies which is highly attractive, and some striking ideas such as the lively trio in the A minor and the ‘amorevole’ slow movement in the C minor, which begins just like a Victorian ballad.
Manchester Evening News

We are in Chandos’ debt for restoring Smith to the company of her peers and allowing such spirited and enjoyable music to be heard again. Howard Shelley, whose services to the revival of Moscheles I have drawn attention to, directs very lively and nicely balanced performances from the London Mozart Players, who sound as if they were proud to be involved in this act of restitution. I would encourage anyone to buy this warmly revelatory disc.
International Record Review

Stylish, characterful performances from soloists and orchestra alike… ***** performance ***** sound
BBC Music Magazine on CHAN 9925 (Hummel)

Howard Shelley and the London Mozart Players own this repertoire are not likely to face any competition in the foreseeable future, if ever. The orchestra – one of the English capital’s finest by the way – offers this unusual fare in confident interpretations that grasps and tug at the curiosity of the listener. They also sustain the music’s initial appeal via an exceptional and sensitive balance of the printed page and consummate musicianship.

Howard Shelley as conductor proves the most compelling advocate, drawing warm, committed performances from his players.
Gramophone on CHAN 9893 (Reinecke)

M Zanella