Author Topic: Havergal Brian.  (Read 758757 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #80 on: June 17, 2007, 03:06:49 PM »
Great news! I didn't hear any of those three symphonies for 25 years, though I could still whistle the opening and especially the tragic finale of the Sixth from memory. The good news being the coupling: I remember to have had a special liking for Cooke Three, and look forward with anticipation to its release.

Yes, I'm in the same boat. It's fun and also a liitle weird to hear this stuff again after a quarter of a century; a bit like going into a time warp. Like you, I can remember Brian's No 6 and 16 after all this time. I also had the Cooke on LP and the Morgan Violin Concerto and those interesting symphonies by Robert Still (one based on a psychoanalytic case history as I recall). They will all be on CD in 2008.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Sean

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #81 on: June 18, 2007, 05:59:02 AM »
Hi Luke, I was impressed with your detailed thoughts on Brian, and it’s great to read such advocacy: I know it’s music that has much to offer, though I’m not yet quite so persuaded. It’s certainly interesting though how composers or particular works acquire an aura of presupposition and established critical appraisal around them: sometimes of course it’s all just wide of the mark, yet continues militating against the music’s exposure. These corners of the repertory tend to involve various unusual aesthetics and compositional approaches, and often outside mainstream developments.

Grove 1980 links Brian with his friend Bantock and Strauss (whose later career likewise remains wildly misunderstood) but notes as difficulties in his music the obscure distinction between leading and subsidiary parts, with the melodic interest often in lower or somewhere unexpected and a logic where traditional antithesis and synthesis are hard to observe despite being in a predominantly tonal idiom using traditional material. Heroic themes in the earlier work though give way to motifs apt for more extended development. This is all very interesting and can certainly be felt in the Thirty-first symphony, but I would question the level of sheer intuitive insight that brings to make musical sense of these innovations. Shostakovich for example had the genius for it, but Brian remains enigmatic (rather like Bax admittedly, who I only understood after a lot of patience…)

A heaviness of orchestration is still found in the later symphonies despite their more concise and restrained schemes, and the Penguiners suggest that if he’d been able to hear more of his work in orchestral form then more of the bluntness and questionable if interesting rhythmic syntax would have been addressed. I’ve explored only Symphonies 1, 6, 7 & 31 (and a few short choral pieces- Blow blow thou winter wind; Come away, death & Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day) but see him as somewhere between Elgar’s and VW’s continental structures and Bax’s visionary English waywardness: like Bantock he finds a position between German sweep, dissonance and architecture, and refined English detail- both were arguably also too prolific…

I can’t go along with all your enthusiasm for the First symphony- there’s surely no work written that has so many diverse ideas sequentially offered yet without being developed further: I’d argue it remains a beached whale and is hard to take it all that seriously just because of its lack of unity: Mahler Eight has a similar problem but is better contained within its particular aesthetic.

He’s perhaps unique in having written only five symphonies before he was 72 and his last 27 after then.

I’ll have a closer look at your post next time…
« Last Edit: June 18, 2007, 09:32:13 AM by Sean »

Offline Christo

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #82 on: June 18, 2007, 09:22:46 AM »
I'm going to continue to rate him highly, whatever JQP thinks  ;D

... and many of us are grateful that you do! However high I appreciate Thomas' insights into 20th century British music - and I find his views on Vaughan Williams superior to anyone's, for example - in this respect I wholeheartedly agree with all Luke's arguments, that I read with great admiration.

Urged by this thread, I've been listening afresh to the three 'introductionary' orchestral movements (preceding the huge Te Deum, forming the other three movements) of Brian's Gothic again, after a gap of some years. Especially the third movement, Vivace, is of such tremendous symphonic power, and built up in such a unique, very 'symphonic' fashion, that I cannot really think of anything else in music equalling it. And at least a handful of other symphonies share this uniqueness, this highly personal and deeply moving musical language: e.g. the Sixth (Tragica), Eight and Tenth.

What I really don't understand is: why is Brian considered 'difficult'?? I would argue that his densely scored Violin Concerto poses more difficulties than at least a number of his symphonies. Especially the Gothic should reveal itself on first hearing, I would say. So what is so "difficult" about Brian? Honestly, I really miss that point.
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #83 on: June 18, 2007, 10:09:53 PM »

What I really don't understand is: why is Brian considered 'difficult'?? I would argue that his densely scored Violin Concerto poses more difficulties than at least a number of his symphonies. Especially the Gothic should reveal itself on first hearing, I would say. So what is so "difficult" about Brian? Honestly, I really miss that point.

I agree. The Violin Concerto is, for me, a much more difficult work than, say, symphonies 8,9 and 10
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Harry

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #84 on: June 21, 2007, 04:00:27 AM »
Well there was some worry about the continuation of the symphonies with Naxos, here it is.

Offline Christo

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #85 on: June 21, 2007, 01:02:41 PM »
Well there was some worry about the continuation of the symphonies with Naxos, here it is.

 8) :P Exactly the one I forgot to buy when released as a Marco Polo CD - and not to be found anywhere for years. Even a former HBS (Havergal Brian Society) member (blush, I am one  0:) is sometimes forced to an embarrassing confession: I never heard Brian's Second!
« Last Edit: June 21, 2007, 03:04:35 PM by Christo »
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #86 on: June 21, 2007, 01:20:57 PM »
Well there was some worry about the continuation of the symphonies with Naxos, here it is.

I have the Marco Polo version and I must say that Naxos have included a much more dramatic cover design than the photo of Brighton Pavillion on the original release! No 2 is not an easy work but very rewarding in its uncompromising way.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Harry

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #87 on: June 21, 2007, 09:54:24 PM »
8) :P Exactly the one I forgot to buy when released as a Marco Polo CD - and not to be found anywhere for years. Even a former HBS (Havergal Brian Society) member (blush, I am one  0:) is sometimes forced to an embarrassing confession: I never heard Brian's Second!

Well until recently I did not even know this composer, so feel relaxed about you not having heard the second symphony! ;D
All is well.

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #88 on: July 09, 2007, 12:07:28 PM »
I joined only today. But as a confirmed Brian lover (Dutch) and member of the HBS (since 1984) I must simply say that it's good to see some Brianites here. Some of them (Christo, lukeottevanger) I must have seen in the flesh, because I was in London in 1995 for the Violin Concerto and the Turandot suites, and in 1997 for the premiere of The Cenci.

I hope to give my 'take' on Brian later. But I'm glad there are some who'll fight for him. There is so much power, beauty, tenderness and imagination in his music (I know most of what has been recorded or broadcast). And we musn't forget - don't judge a composer too harshly when there is no performance tradition to speak of. The best performances of Brian give you a sense of the utter rightness of his ear. And another thing - Brian has to be experienced live. My wife was with me in 1995, and she was bowled over by the music.
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Christo

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #89 on: July 09, 2007, 09:46:47 PM »
Dear JH! Great to see you here - and to read your correct infor on the 1995 HBS concerts. Yes, we met there, even the three of us, and yes, I was wrong in referring to The Tigers: it was the Turandot music that was being performed, then, with the Violin Concerto and one of the lighter Overtures, If I'm not mistaken again.

I still own you your EMI CD with nos 8 + 9 - so, let's meet again. bw, christo
… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #90 on: July 09, 2007, 10:35:29 PM »
Dear JH! Great to see you here - and to read your correct infor on the 1995 HBS concerts. Yes, we met there, even the three of us, and yes, I was wrong in referring to The Tigers: it was the Turandot music that was being performed, then, with the Violin Concerto and one of the lighter Overtures, If I'm not mistaken again.

I still own you your EMI CD with nos 8 + 9 - so, let's meet again. bw, christo

Ah, JS! Do you know, I was wondering whether I recognised something familar... Still in love with RVW, I see! I saw some of your contributions on the Gramophone forum when I became enamoured of the music of Albéric Magnard (his Third and Fourth are magnificent) and tried to find out as much as I could about him. Good to see you! Yes, by all means, let's meet again.

Another correction: it was not one of the lighter overtures that was performed, but Pantalon and Columbine, consisting of 'Valse' and 'Under the Beech Tree', two works that were later incorporated into the First English Suite.

[Sorry, girls and boys, for this semi-private conversation...]

Jez
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Christo

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #91 on: July 11, 2007, 11:38:42 PM »
It might interest some of us to see the 1972 Havergal Brian documentary on YouTube, with some shootage of Brian himself, Robert Simpson and many others.
And also a film of the 1972 recording sessions of the Tenth by the [among HBS members] rather famous LSSO (Leicester Schools Symphony Orchestra) under James Loughran.

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsHbjY8HbcE&mode=related&search=

Were are you to be seen, dear Luke?

… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #92 on: July 12, 2007, 12:23:36 AM »
This interests me a lot, Christo!! Long live YouTube! Btw - are there any Brianites interested in the Boult Gothic? I have a lossless rip (flac) of the famous pirated recording. I would gladly upload it...

Jez

P.S. Now seen the documentary. I found it very moving, having lived so long with this man's music.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2007, 12:58:07 AM by Jezetha »
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

lukeottevanger

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #93 on: July 12, 2007, 12:21:38 PM »
It might interest some of us to see the 1972 Havergal Brian documentary on YouTube, with some shootage of Brian himself, Robert Simpson and many others.
And also a film of the 1972 recording sessions of the Tenth by the [among HBS members] rather famous LSSO (Leicester Schools Symphony Orchestra) under James Loughran.

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsHbjY8HbcE&mode=related&search=

Were are you to be seen, dear Luke?



LOL - I was actually watching that documentary yesterday too, what a coincidence! I feel a special bond with that particular CD, of course, but I must admit I wasn't in the LSSO then, in fact I wasn't even born! I didn't join them until about 1992 and they were still an very special group even then (entrusted with premieres of Kancheli and Woolrich in my time there, for instance). But the LSSO of the 70s was quite something else, thanks to Pinkett and Tippett etc. - and yes, even having been a member, it was still astonishing to see the age of some of the members in the Brian doc.

The British music education system for once had things so right with their county orchestras and the Saturday morning pyramid system, of which the LSSO was probably the pioneering and best group, on this and other evidence. It was still going strong in Leicestershire just a decade ago, but elsewhere was already beginning a downward slide. What on earth possessed the-powers-that-be to let this happen? >:( :'(

Even years after the event there were still traces of the LSSO recording to be found in Leicester. When I first discovered Brian I found the scores to Symphonies 10 and 21 in the city's Goldsmith Music Library (which has also suffered over the years since, I think); I would hazard the guess that these were something to do with the LSSO recording, except that the library also had a score of number 8 for some reason. What other public library has such relative riches, I wonder.  ???
« Last Edit: July 12, 2007, 12:26:47 PM by lukeottevanger »

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #94 on: August 01, 2007, 03:33:48 PM »
Absolutely! MacDonald brings it alive. Prompted by this thread, actually, I reread the first chapters of the book this morning, and was bowled over again by the prose. It's simply exciting reading. I was very close to quoting exactly the passage you just did, and also the couple of paragraphs before it - it's one of those sections that is a joy just to read.

In MacDonald's writing, unsurprisingly, similar metaphors return - the score as a battleground, scene of catastrophe and tragedy, and also the celestial mechanics theme - that passage describing the central point of the Gothic's Vivace, for instance, where he talks about the veil being lifted and the engine within being revealed. He gets it spot on. The introduction, too, I was reminding, is sterling stuff, making all the right points succinctly. 

Malcolm MacDonald and I were at school together and were great friends. I vividly remember a holiday we took together as students to Rome! At school our joint interests in Roman History and the works of Tolkien brought us together but our friendship was fuelled by our passionate interest in a whole host of (then) somewhat obscure composers. Many an afternoon and evening were spent listening to LPs he had managed to obtain from American dealers and which-a few years later-I was able to tape. As schoolboys we both began to develop an interest in the music of Havergal Brian. Malcolm has-obviously-gone on to become the foremost expert on Brian's music in the country. I too have always admired the passage from Volume 1 of his books on the Brian Symphonies quoted above. Malcolm's astonishing command of the English language and his ability to so vividly describe the music he loves is nothing new. I can assure you that as a schoolboy his passsion for music and his capacity to inspire an interest in music one had not yet heard was unbelievably infectious.

Together with my own father I owe Malcolm an enormous debt for my own committment to seeking our new music and new composers to explore!

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #95 on: August 01, 2007, 11:57:27 PM »
"I can assure you that as a schoolboy his passion for music and his capacity to inspire an interest in music one had not yet heard was unbelievably infectious."

Hello, Dundonnell! You may like to know that it was Malcolm MacDonald's prose alone that 'converted' me to Brian in 1978. I borrowed the first volume of his Brian study from the library in Amsterdam (I was 17 at the time) and knew at once that I would love this music once I was able to listen to it.

That only happened a year later, when I got hold of the Groves recording of symphonies 8 & 9. Malcolm MacDonald's descriptions were absolutely correct!

Greetings from Delft, Netherlands!
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #96 on: November 28, 2007, 02:22:57 AM »
Havergal Brian died 35 years ago, on 28th November 1972, almost 97 years old.

I'll be listening to some of his symphonies in his honour.

Long may his work live!
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Harry

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #97 on: November 28, 2007, 02:49:02 AM »
Havergal Brian died 35 years ago, on 28th November 1972, almost 97 years old.

I'll be listening to some of his symphonies in his honour.

Long may his work live!

And now for the complete recordings of his Symphonies.............. $:) ;D

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #98 on: November 28, 2007, 02:58:15 AM »
And now for the complete recordings of his Symphonies.............. $:) ;D

CPO? If that company can do a complete Pettersson and a complete Villa-Lobos cycle  and commit to a complete set of Henk Badings and Julius Rontgen then 32 Brian symphonies should not be beyond them!!

Harry

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Re: Havergal Brian.
« Reply #99 on: November 28, 2007, 03:02:28 AM »
CPO? If that company can do a complete Pettersson and a complete Villa-Lobos cycle  and commit to a complete set of Henk Badings and Julius Rontgen then 32 Brian symphonies should not be beyond them!!

I will discuss this with the board...... :)
You are absolutely right!