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BRIAN, H.: Symphonies Nos. 11 and 15 (Ireland RTE National Symphony, Rowe, Leaper)

Composer(s):Brian, Havergal
Artist(s) Leaper, Adrian, Conductor • Rowe, Tony, Conductor • Ireland RTE National Symphony Orchestra
Period(s) 20th Century
Genre Classical Music
Category Orchestral
Catalogue 8.572014
Label Naxos
Quality   320kbps
Download and Stream

Havergal Brian was never a conventional composer, but the three later works on this disc rank among his most unconventional approaches to the symphonic form. The highly virtuosic Doctor Merryheart portrays an imaginary astronomer’s musical obsessions. The artless spontaneity of Symphony No. 11, whose Adagio is one of Brian’s most profound inspirations, and the extrovert character of Symphony No. 15, are firmly grounded in Brian’s resourceful technical mastery. The martial vigour of the early overture For Valour drew inspiration from the Walt Whitman poem Drum Taps (also used by Vaughan Williams in Dona nobis pacem, Naxos 8.572424).

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Important recordings in the Brian revival
Review By dfrey,March 2011

The works on this disc were recorded in 1993 and 1997, and were part of the series of Marco Polo discs from the end of the century that helped move Brian from cult status more or less into the mainstream of British classical music. It's nice to have this music at a budget price, and more widely available (though this particular Marco Polo issue is still out there both on CD and through MP3 downloads). The CD begins with two very early works. Both the Concert Overture: For Valour and the Comedy Overture: Doctor Merryheart owe a great deal to Elgar and to Richard Strauss. They're very expressive and highly emotional; Brian wears his heart on his sleeve in this music. Don't expect Monty Python in the Comedy Overture, by the way; this is very much in the Falstaff hearty-laughs more....

Review By Steve Schwartz,,June 2011

Giant. British composer Havergal Brian left a significant body of work, including a cycle of 32 symphonies, which hardly anyone but specialists knows. During his very long life (nearly 97 years), he gained the support of such figures as Elgar, Delius, Bantock, Vaughan Williams, Ernest Newman, and Robert Simpson, the last of whom helped illuminate him briefly on the general listener’s radar screen. Certainly, Simpson turned me on to Brian during the Sixties and Seventies through articles, liner notes, and getting up actual performances on BBC Radio. Yet, if we consider the quality of Brian’s music, we can’t say he’s yet gotten his due. Here, after all, is Elgar’s heir, among other things. Bad luck plagued him most of his life. Born in grinding

Brian’s work divides roughly into early and late. The early work is big and Romantic; the late terse and thoroughly modern. This CD features scores from both periods.

If Brian has a fault, it’s his tendency to stuff his work full of too many wonderful things. I can’t think of a truly light piece. For Valour suffers from this. It’s an Elgarian overture—similar to something like Froissart or In the South. Ideas burst from it in confusing profusion. There are, for example, not one, not two, but three multi-thematic subject groups, and they’re freely mixed in the development. This takes, at least, great skill, but a listener may have to listen to it many, many times before it begins to make sense. Fortunately, Naxos has divided the overture into subtracks, and Brian maven Malcolm McDonald has provided terrific liner notes geared to those tracks. Most of the overture is either contemplative or grand, but it also contains sommore....

Review By Scherzo,December 2010



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