Author Topic: Havergal Brian.  (Read 514643 times)

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Online Sergeant Rock

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #40 on: June 11, 2007, 06:19:37 AM »
On the ball, as usual.

Perhaps we should write to Heyman and ask why the cycle ceased.

Good idea, Hector. I'll do that.

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #41 on: June 11, 2007, 06:20:21 AM »
I've listened to 1, 4, 12, 8, and 9 and they are all horrible music. Densely scored, unmemorable tunes (there is a nice folksy little violin solo in the beginning of the 1st - I say beginning since I can't get through the whole thing no matter how hard I try). The rest is a mixture of salon music, noise, and bits and pieces of Holst and Shostakovich but showing nowhere near the maturity or skill of either one.

I am sorry, I think Maro Polo sense a loser coming (the sound sucked too in all those recordings) so they cut the cycle before losing too much $$$.

Online Sergeant Rock

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #42 on: June 11, 2007, 06:23:39 AM »
I've listened to 1, 4, 12, 8, and 9 and they are all horrible music. Densely scored, unmemorable tunes (there is a nice folksy little violin solo in the beginning of the 1st - I say beginning since I can't get through the whole thing no matter how hard I try). The rest is a mixture of salon music, noise, and bits and pieces of Holst and Shostakovich but showing nowhere near the maturity or skill of either one.

I am sorry, I think Maro Polo sense a loser coming (the sound sucked too in all those recordings) so they cut the cycle before losing too much $$$.

Then you'll be pleased about the Dittersdorf cycle.

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

karlhenning

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #43 on: June 11, 2007, 06:24:51 AM »
Well, he deserves a little happiness, too.

Personally, I'm more curious about this thread's namesake.

Offline PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #44 on: June 11, 2007, 06:44:52 AM »
Well, he deserves a little happiness, too.

Personally, I'm more curious about this thread's namesake.

What namesake?

pjme

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #45 on: June 11, 2007, 09:16:29 AM »
But there is definitely some very beautiful music by Brian.

As so often : an uneven composer IMO,( cfr. Langgaard, Milhaud, Petterson,Bax etc). Still he has -like the other composers mentioned- this unique voice ,or handwriting - character. Even if one doesn't like the music, it can be recognised immediately.

Wait till next year, when Lyrita will re-issue symphonies 6 (Tragica) and 16. Very good performances of accessible works (LPO /Myer Fredman). Neither overlong, nor frustratingly short.
Beautiful melodies, a sense of drama & vision.

I haven't heard all his works ,of course, but it can be very tough, weird - rambling.

I have fond memories of symphony nr 5 "Wine of summer" for baritone & orch. ( alas only on tape) - more overtly "emotional" than the more abstract, late symphonies.


Online Sergeant Rock

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #46 on: June 11, 2007, 09:30:14 AM »
But there is definitely some very beautiful music by Brian...Wait till next year, when Lyrita will re-issue symphonies 6 (Tragica) and 16. Very good performances of accessible works (LPO /Myer Fredman). Neither overlong, nor frustratingly short. Beautiful melodies, a sense of drama & vision.

Definitely. Couldn't agree more. Along with the Gothic, the 16th is my favorite of the 21 I've heard so far. Still cherish my old LP.

I haven't heard all his works, of course, but it can be very tough, weird - rambling.

Which is why we love him so much  ;D  But, seriously, his music can be difficult to penetrate. I don't fault those who give up early on Brian.

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

karlhenning

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #47 on: June 11, 2007, 09:32:08 AM »
The upside must be: tough, weird rambling is corn to a Mahler-lover's sickle  ;D

Don't lose hope, Sarge:)

karlhenning

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #48 on: June 11, 2007, 09:40:38 AM »
PS/ Sarge, I tried to PM, but I'm told your inbox is full . . . .

Online Sergeant Rock

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #49 on: June 11, 2007, 11:02:56 AM »
PS/ Sarge, I tried to PM, but I'm told your inbox is full . . . .

Really? A gold subscriber and my inbox is full? Scandalous. I demand more space!!!  ;D

Sarge
« Last Edit: June 11, 2007, 11:05:42 AM by Sergeant Rock »
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

karlhenning

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #50 on: June 11, 2007, 11:05:21 AM »
Hmm. Sounds like a bug.

Online Sergeant Rock

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #51 on: June 11, 2007, 11:07:33 AM »
Hmm. Sounds like a bug.

Could be. I had five pages worth of mail. Is that excessive do you think? I think I used to have more than that on the old forum before I became a subscriber. Anyway, I've cleaned the box and if you want, you can try again.

Sarge
« Last Edit: June 11, 2007, 11:12:19 AM by Sergeant Rock »
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

lukeottevanger

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #52 on: June 11, 2007, 11:19:17 AM »
I've listened to 1, 4, 12, 8, and 9 and they are all horrible music. Densely scored, unmemorable tunes


nah....he is more like Mahler in this than you care to imagine; what I mean is that he has got a limited number of tune-types/rhythmic types, and after that they are all only variations thereon - the last three movements of the Gothic, for instance, feature a plethora of tunes which are just variations of an unheard  proto-tune based on the augmented triad. Mahler 8 actually uses a similar technique IMO. Which isn't a limitation in either composer - this constant protean metamorphosis is part of their style, and it is a mark of the deep-rootedness and genuineness of both composers that their music always sounds like them and no one else.

In any case, I would have no problem singing to you all the melodic material of the Brian symphonies I am familiar with. It's at its strongest, IMO in Symphonies 1, 3, 7 and 8, all of which are packed with wonderful things. The scherzo of no 3, in particular, proves that Brian could compose 'like every one else' when he wanted to.

Densely scored? Certainly, he has a distinctive juggernaut sound, those lurching marches, thudding chords and bass-directed textures; there is a deliberate brutal clumsiness built in - a typical Brian texture is a lumbering march destroying all in its path, and that no doubt reflects a deep and constant concern of his; there is little point in criticising its musical realisation, I think for it does the job it is designed for perfectly.
In any case, the scoring - study it - is an absolute model of its type. And when he wants to be delicate he can do it like no-one else. There are wraith-like passages in my favourite 8th Symphony as weird and delicate as anything in Berlioz.

(there is a nice folksy little violin solo in the beginning of the 1st - I say beginning since I can't get through the whole thing no matter how hard I try). The rest is a mixture of salon music, noise, and bits and pieces of Holst and Shostakovich but showing nowhere near the maturity or skill of either one.

The 'nice folksy violin solo' is a marvel indeed, but seen by some as a big formal misjudgement - it stops the momentum of this huge symphony before it has really got started. Personally I think it is perfect in its place, showing us, before we expected it, the still flip-side of the intense, turbulent music already heard. This is a principle in operation throughout the symphony, possibly best seen in the Vivace third movement. It is also an early example of the juddering juxtaposition of extremes for which Brian is famous, and which in the 8th symphony audibly becomes the formal basis of the whole piece - militaristic music v. lyricism, both driven to ever wilder and more ecstatic extremes in briefer and briefer cross cuts. Wild stuff. But I digress.

It is a mistake, btw, to see Brian as relating to Holst and especially Shostakovich, his junior by 30 years. He is a very different figure to both. Mahler is actually a good comparison in many ways, but few other composers are.

I am sorry, I think Maro Polo sense a loser coming (the sound sucked too in all those recordings) so they cut the cycle before losing too much $$$.

The sound wasn't great. But as far as I recall, that wasn't the whole story.

karlhenning

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #53 on: June 11, 2007, 11:24:31 AM »
Anyway, I've cleaned the box and if you want, you can try again.

Success!

Offline PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #54 on: June 11, 2007, 11:43:54 AM »


Densely scored? Certainly, he has a distinctive juggernaut sound, those lurching marches, thudding chords and bass-directed textures; there is a deliberate brutal clumsiness built in - a typical Brian texture is a lumbering march destroying all in its path, and that no doubt reflects a deep and constant concern of his; there is little point in criticising its musical realisation, I think for it does the job it is designed for perfectly.
In any case, the scoring - study it - is an absolute model of its type. And when he wants to be delicate he can do it like no-one else. There are wraith-like passages in my favourite 8th Symphony as weird and delicate as anything in Berlioz.


I just have a problem hearing which ever way Brian is going. Mahler's scoring is very clear, you more or less hear what each instrument (or group of instruments) is going. With Brian it seems like they are each going off in different directions and not really related to each other in a meaningful way. But I admit I have not dedicated a vast amount of time listening to him.

The piece that I have the most problem with is the 4th symphony which is an interminable 60 minutes long. Maybe it is the performance also but everything just seems it is repeated over and over for the whole hour.

lukeottevanger

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #55 on: June 11, 2007, 11:59:00 AM »
I just have a problem hearing which ever way Brian is going. Mahler's scoring is very clear, you more or less hear what each instrument (or group of instruments) is going. With Brian it seems like they are each going off in different directions and not really related to each other in a meaningful way. But I admit I have not dedicated a vast amount of time listening to him.

Well, I think you've correctly diagnosed one of the main Brian symptom! But then again, though I think Mahler is a good point of comparison, they are very different composers, and though I'd never suggest that Brian has Mahler's quality, he does share his strength of character and individuality. The reason I say this is that I think it is misleading to listen to Brian with expectations based on Mahler (or any other contemporary of his, for that matter). The hardest thing about Brian, then, is that these are obviously late Romantic symphonies, but they make little sense if one listens to them in that way. Brian is unique, for instance, in basing his melodic focus around the bass as much as he does; it takes a readjustment to get used to that. Then again, the 'going off in different directions' that you hear is not a misjudgement by a composer attempting the clarity of a Mahler and found wanting - it is a fundamental part of his style. Like all great Romantic composers, Brian's style is a deeply personal thing, formed from his profoundest experiences, and so, though it's hard to get into, it is worth putting one's trust in until one 'gets' it. Something about the clumsy-sounding nature of some of Brian's music, though this is as deliberate a part of his sound as Mahler's weltschmerz, unfortunately leads many listeners not to want to invest this trust in him. I think that is the root of his problem.

The piece that I have the most problem with is the 4th symphony which is an interminable 60 minutes long. Maybe it is the performance also but everything just seems it is repeated over and over for the whole hour.

Well, I will say that the 4th is really intense piece, Brian's most brutal and maliciously ironic work, perhaps, with all his typical shuddering juxtapositions and fragmentations present as much or more than in any other work of his. The sense of everything being repeated is not entirely wrong - but then, as I suggested before, it would be possible to say the same of Mahler too (Mahler 8 in particular, again); it's just that Gustav's language is more mellifluous and less potentially infuriating! As I implied above, it invites our trust more easily.

But if you want to give Brian a fair chance, I can only reiterate - try the EMI disc of 7, 8 and 9. If these three, and 8 particularly  - Brian at his very best, without a weak bar - don't convert you, then I will give up happily  :)

Offline PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #56 on: June 11, 2007, 12:05:15 PM »
Something about the clumsy-sounding nature of some of Brian's music, though this is as deliberate a part of his sound as Mahler's weltschmerz, unfortunately leads many listeners not to want to invest this trust in him. I think that is the root of his problem.

But if you want to give Brian a fair chance, I can only reiterate - try the EMI disc of 7, 8 and 9. If these three, and 8 particularly  - Brian at his very best, without a weak bar - don't convert you, then I will give up happily  :)

Of course I know it is unfair to compare Brian with Mahler but I am going to anyway. With Mahler even things that are meant to sound clumsy are done with such panache and flair. Take for example the second movement of the 9th symphony which Mahler wants to sound a little clumsy and like a country dance. But it is extremely deftly scored, light, and colorful. What comes across is anything but coarse.

I have the EMI disc of 8th and 9th (I have an earlier release so 7 is not included). I will give it another spin tonight.

lukeottevanger

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #57 on: June 11, 2007, 01:06:34 PM »
Of course I know it is unfair to compare Brian with Mahler but I am going to anyway. With Mahler even things that are meant to sound clumsy are done with such panache and flair. Take for example the second movement of the 9th symphony which Mahler wants to sound a little clumsy and like a country dance. But it is extremely deftly scored, light, and colorful. What comes across is anything but coarse.

Absolutely; I just think that Brian often intends the coarseness. Underlying a lot of Brian is this lumbering militarism - the horrors of WWI haunt his music in this way - which is not something that Mahler attempts anywhere as far as I remember

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #58 on: June 11, 2007, 11:34:23 PM »
I am also really looking forward to the reappearance of symphonies 6 and 16 on Lyrita (they are having trouble finding an appropriate coupling from their catalogue; I suggested Bantock's Overture to a Greek Tragedy but that has just been issued with works by Holbrooke and Rootham's great Symphony (would appeal to fans of Moeran I think)

Like Langgaard, Brian is a very uneven composer and some of those late symphonies are very dense (although not No 22) but I stand by what I said about 8 and 10 being masterpieces; they possess a great  slumbering power and a kind of craggy poetry which I find both moving and memorable. I recall that a critic wrote that No 10 ends with a sense of hard-won but enduring victory and I agree.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

lukeottevanger

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #59 on: June 12, 2007, 12:23:30 AM »
...I recall that a critic wrote that No 10 ends with a sense of hard-won but enduring victory and I agree.

In passing - Brian's music is the sort that inspires memorable phrases of this sort. Malcolm MacDonald, who was possibly responsible for the line you quote, also has a memorable line about the way a pp brass chord near the end of the 10th

Quote from: Malcolm MacDonald
stares at us, sphinx-like and inscrutable...it hangs there, athwart the music, utterly static and mysterious. So might some gigantic supernova shine out of the depths of space, a cold, far-off, incomprehensible radiance, yet signifying the deaths of stars and worlds...

after that, as he describes it, the solo violin offers

Quote from: Malcolm MacDonald
a last poignant assertion of human integrity, but it also implies reconciliation: the universe is vast and mysterious; peace of mind lies only in a stoic unafraid acceptance of the fact that there will be no answers....'Well, 'tis very well'. The final two quiet bars...have all the deep majesty of the distant night sky, and the calm of the stars in their courses

Hyperbolic stuff, some might think, but this is music of the sort of scale and reach that calls for such writing, much as Mahler and Wagner's music has been garlanded in similar ways - and no one can doubt that MacDonald has hit upon some appropriate imagery for the end of this last symphony of a triptych of 'brothers'. Not only that, but also - at the time of writing that, Brian's music was even less known than it is now, and was still at the stage where it needed cool passionless analysis less than it needed simply to be described in print.

As in his Brahms and Schoenberg books, MacDonald proves himself one of the most persuasive, passionate and understanding of music writer in his books on the Brian symphonies  - they are chock-full of such apt metaphors and perfect, pertinent similes (dozens leap to mind as I write this) and it seems to me that they may help people struggling with Brian to grasp the essence of his music verbally, giving them an idea of the direction from which to approach him.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2007, 01:02:10 AM by lukeottevanger »

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