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Posted March 3, 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 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 tradition.
The symphonies come from much later in Brian's career. I'm certainly no Brian specialist, but I find this craggy/lyrical music to be highly cogent, and more accessible than I had assumed. The music repays careful listening, but chunks of these symphonies blasting from the CD player in my car have provided spur-of-the-moment inspiration along with much admiration for an uncompromising, crusty old composer.