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Havergal Brian: Symphonies Nos. 11 & 15; Doctor Merryheart; For Valor

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Robert Cummings
In 1990, the music of Havergal Brian 1876-1972 was making quite a splash, as several recordings of his music had recently appeared and an important premiere issue had come out that summer, the massive choral First Symphony, the so-called Gothic. In fact, it was released on this label, then called Marco Polo/Records International, which at the time was distributed by Harmonia Mundi. This recording is still available in Marco Polo's ongoing Brian series, but, as most know by now, is distributed by its sister-company, Naxos. Since that time a good many more of his thirty-two symphonies and other works have received attention on disc, if not in the concert hall. Now in the ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Robert Cummings
In 1990, the music of Havergal Brian 1876-1972 was making quite a splash, as several recordings of his music had recently appeared and an important premiere issue had come out that summer, the massive choral First Symphony, the so-called Gothic. In fact, it was released on this label, then called Marco Polo/Records International, which at the time was distributed by Harmonia Mundi. This recording is still available in Marco Polo's ongoing Brian series, but, as most know by now, is distributed by its sister-company, Naxos. Since that time a good many more of his thirty-two symphonies and other works have received attention on disc, if not in the concert hall. Now in the wake of numerous re-discovered and altogether new composers, Brian's rising star has come back down to earth. Yet, his art must still be assessed as it was a decade or so ago: here was an unjustly neglected composer, whose complex musical forms and prolific output in later years set him apart from his contemporaries. The best way to describe him, though--or, at least, his musical attitude--is simply to say he was a one-of-a-kind figure, content to go his own way and not care what trends he might have been expected to follow. The music on this disc is well-crafted, with even the overtures invested with fine music and adroit orchestration. They are not fluff and each, especially Doctor Merryheart, offers much color and substance in a style vaguely reminiscent of Vaughn Williams. The symphonies, though, are the truly important items here. The 1954 Eleventh starts off with an Adagio of great beauty, simplicity, complexity, and timelessness. That string of adjectives may abound in contradiction, but it's hard to describe what you are listening to here: at times, the music carries strains of Rachmaninov, Mahler, Ives, and even of Hanson. Yet, in no way does it imitate the music of those composers. The long second movement is colorful and seemingly episodic, though after repeated hearings things tend to appear more unified than they had at first. This is not to suggest that his expressive language here is dense or unapproachable; rather, it is subtle and rich in ideas. Some sections, especially in the latter half of this movement, have an exoticism that is reminiscent of the weird colors in Vaughn Williams' Eighth Symphony, though any further similarity between the two works isn't to be noticed. The finale is short and colorful, again showing an exotic side. This generally playful and celebratory music caps off an interesting and attractive symphony that fully deserves greater attention. The 1960 Fifteenth Symphony begins in a festive mood and is optimistic throughout. It seems that whenever Brian becomes celebratory, his music divulges a British pageantry and more than vaguely suggests Vaughn Williams. In the middle part of this one-movement work there is some ponderous yet colorful music, that features some very interesting and delicate writing in various passages for reeds, horn, and celesta. Brian turns exotic once more in the latter pages of the score, the atmosphere becoming something akin to slow-motion Spanish music. In the end, this, too, is a worthy symphony from the pen of one of the most interesting and still-underrated composers of the twentieth century. The performances here are quite convincing. This Irish orchestra has turned in some fine work for the late Georg Tintner in his Bruckner cycle and for Adrian Leaper in Sibelius. Both conductors here seem to have a feel for the unique idiom of Brian and offer incisive readings in all works. The profuse notes by Malcolm Macdonald, who has written extensively about Brian, are among the most brilliant and informative I've encountered. If only all labels could offer the same scholarship in their notes.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 2/22/2000
  • Label: Marco Polo
  • UPC: 730099358828
  • Catalog Number: 223588

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–5 For Valor for organ - Havergal Brian & Jeremy Drake (13:31)
    Composed byHavergal Brian
    Conducted byTony Rowe
    Performed byTony Rowe, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
    1. 1Overture. [Part 1]
    2. 2Overture. [Part 2]
    3. 3Overture. [Part 3]
    4. 4Overture. [Part 4]
    5. 5Overture. [Part 5]
  2. 6–14 Doctor Merryheart - Havergal Brian & Jeremy Drake (16:04)
    Composed byHavergal Brian
    Conducted byAdrian Leaper
    Performed byAdrian Leaper, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
    1. 6Comedy Overture. [Part 1]
    2. 7Comedy Overture. [Part 2]
    3. 8Comedy Overture. [Part 3]
    4. 9Comedy Overture. [Part 4]
    5. 10Comedy Overture. [Part 5]
    6. 11Comedy Overture. [Part 6]
    7. 12Comedy Overture. [Part 7]
    8. 13Comedy Overture. [Part 8]
    9. 14Comedy Overture. [Part 9]
  3. 15–22 Symphony No. 11 - Havergal Brian & Jeremy Drake (24:33)
    Composed byHavergal Brian
    Conducted byAdrian Leaper
    Performed byAdrian Leaper, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
    1. 15Adagio
    2. 16Allegro giocoso. [Part 1]
    3. 17Allegro giocoso. [Part 2]
    4. 18Allegro giocoso. [Part 3]
    5. 19Allegro giocoso. [Part 4]
    6. 20Maestoso e pesante - Allegro marcia. [Part 1]
    7. 21Maestoso e pesante - Allegro marcia. [Part 2]
    8. 22Maestoso e pesante - Allegro marcia. [Part 3]
  4. 23–28 Symphony No. 15 in A major - Havergal Brian & Jeremy Drake (22:47)
    Composed byHavergal Brian
    Conducted byTony Rowe
    Performed byTony Rowe, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
    1. 23[Part 1]
    2. 24[Part 2]
    3. 25[Part 3]
    4. 26[Part 4]
    5. 27[Part 5]
    6. 28[Part 6]
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Adrian Leaper Primary Artist
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