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BRIAN: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 12

Composer(s):Brian, Havergal
Period(s) 20th Century
Genre Classical Music
Category Orchestral
Catalogue 8.570308
Label Naxos
Quality   320kbps
Download and Stream

A lifelong admirer of German musical culture, literature and thought, Brian wrote his Fourth Symphony ‘Das Siegeslied’ (Psalm of Victory) at a time when Germany’s cultural heritage was being distorted by nationalism. Scored for double chorus, soprano and an orchestra of massive proportions, the work comprises two wild, martial movements enclosing a slow and contemplative one. With its peculiarly pitiless text glorifying ‘Macht und Kraft’ (might and power) and music of barbaric splendour and violent expressive contrast, the Symphony can be seen as Brian’s apocalyptic vision of the direction in which Germany was heading. For the single-movement Twelfth Symphony, Brian still employs a large orchestra, but the language is pared down to essentials.

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Review By Penguin Guide,January 2009

Based on Psalm 68, a text full of apocalyptic and violent temperament with the most extreme of Old Testament passions, it was written in 1932–3 when many forces of evil were indeed gathering. Brian was an admirer of German culture and some of his scores had recently been published in Germany; this may explain why the texts are set in German: not only would that help promote the work in that country, he may well have felt that these words had something particularly relevant to say. The extreme violence is well conveyed and is counterbalanced with the more lyrical forces of humanity, goodness, heavenly visions, pastoral serenity, and the like. There are many inventive ideas, and the work’s impetus is surprisingly consistent…The Twelfth Symphony, written in


Review By David Denton, Naxos,January 2007

English eccentric, gifted amateur, call him what you may, but Havergal Brian was a flawed musical genius. Born in England in 1876, he had on his death, at the age of 96, completed 33 symphonies, 27 coming in the last 24 years of his life. His love of music survived his early life in the mundane career as a clerk, and though taught organ as a boy, his education in composition came only by reading scores. As a young man the First English Suite was well received, but he was so short of money, he gladly enlisted in the army for the First World War. Hostilities ended he found more attractive employment copying music and working as assistant editor to the magazine, Musical Opinion, the two giving a financial stability to begin his opera, The , and the massive 'Gothic' Symphony. He was to end his life in abject poverty, friends buying a radio so that he could hear his music being played. Though he remained wedded to tonal music, and it is no slur on the Slovak performers to say they found the Fourth Symphony such an enormous challenge, for anyone would be in the same position. That we have on disc a work that calls for an enormous chorus and orchestra was with thanks to the Marco Polo label that had already given us the gigantic 'Gothic'. It is such a multilayered score, performers often harmonically cast adrift from each other, and it is high praise to Adrian Leaper that he managed to keep everything together. Massive in impact it is in contrast the Twelfth from 1957, the five very brief movements lasting just eleven minutes and presents the orchestra with few technical obstacles. The engineers have done their best to accommodate the mass of performers in the Fourth, but it was an unlikely task. Now issued at the Naxos budget price I fervently hope it will encourage more to hear Brian's music.



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