Vol. 3 of the symphonic works of Josef Holbrooke contains further
orchestral works demonstrating that he very much could also compose with
humor and joy. Holbrooke’s symphonic poem Birds of Rhiannon has a great
wealth of melodies that rightly enabled it to achieve great popularity and
to register higher performance figures than all other works by its creator.
The noisy and highly effective introduction in op. 37,2 is followed by the
presentation of the theme and fifteen variations in which Holbrooke is
allowed to develop freely as a brilliant master of instrumentation. In the
third-movement of his third symphony, Ships, he once again shows that he is
a great master with an enormous wealth of ideas and skillfully employed
orchestral colors at his command. In the finale we can practically see the
merchant ships leaving the harbor and heading for their particular
destinations with their various categories of cargo. As a result, Great
Britain is portrayed as a nation ruling the waves of flourishing,
international sea trade – which at the time when Holbrooke composed his
work, it definitely was.