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Havergal Brian Symphonies 22-24


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Author Topic: Havergal Brian Symphonies 22-24  (Read 2835 times)
cilgwyn
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« Reply #45 on: May 01, 2013, 06:31:08 pm »

With due respect,apart from the new one,I can't stand any of them!! Some of the downloads here might be inferior,sonically,but,almost all the performances,uploaded here,have character and atmosphere,that is almost totally lacking from those sterile,drab,Marco Polo performances. I hated them all! Having said that,the choirs featured in the performances of the 'Gothic' & 'Das Siegeslied',are absolutely marvellous. Credit it where it's due,I say! And fair play to MP for actually recording the music. I just wish they hadn't,sometimes,that's all! Grin
Naxos productions have improved no end,though & I can't wait to hear the new recordings!

Finally,a word of thanks to Dundonnell.whose attic 'treasure chest' of old reel to reel tapes,virtually restored my faith in Havergal Brian,overnight! Particularly his epoch making reel of Pope's third! I lost most of my off air cassettes to dodgy tape recorders,and the Hyperion third was a bit disappointing. Dundonnell's uploads were a reminder of the truly inspired performances I had been missing out on! Okay,some of his recordings have been superseded now,but they got my enthusiasm for Brian really going again.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #46 on: May 01, 2013, 08:21:11 pm »

I am delighted to hear it Smiley Smiley

I would agree with Albion that the weakest of the Naxos set is the 2nd....but we can hear the much, much more impressive performance of that symphony by Mackerras Smiley
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J.Z. Herrenberg
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« Reply #47 on: May 01, 2013, 08:35:31 pm »

I just bought (downloaded) the new Naxos Brian CD at ClassicsOnline and listened here and there: ending of the Symphonia Brevis, for instance, and the Carnival movement from the Suite - terrific! Sound is excellent and I can clearly hear that the conductor knows exactly what he is doing. I'll listen to the whole CD later tonight, but I am already very relieved AND very excited!

--Johan
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J.Z. Herrenberg
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« Reply #48 on: May 01, 2013, 10:43:44 pm »

Listened to symphonies 22-24... This CD is an absolute winner. It gives you that real Brian frisson, reminding you why you love the man's music so much. No. 22 gets its best performance ever, I think. The tempi are all well-judged, Alexander Walker knows when to tighten the reins and when to let rip, so the music flows and breathes very naturally. No. 23 is a revelation. To my ears it now clearly points ahead to No. 27 and 28 in the extreme intensity of some its passages. I am very impressed by what has been achieved here by the orchestra. It's quite a ride! No. 24 is excellent, too. Perhaps (minor, very minor niggle) the tempo of the final slow movement could be a tad slower. But who cares - I was moved. It all comes together wonderfully, you can hear the unity of this trilogy for the first time.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #49 on: May 04, 2013, 09:00:35 pm »

No one has added any further comment to Johan's post in reaction to listening to the new Naxos disc.

My own reactions are-

The music is superbly recorded, played and conducted Smiley The disc fully lives up to the expectations aroused by those who had heard the master tapes. All concerns about Naxos not being able to ensure crisp, razor-sharp recording quality and going back to the sometimes somewhat dubious recording standards that came out of Moscow 15-20 years are fully laid to rest Smiley

The Russian musicians of the New Russia State Symphony Orchestra play superlatively well and are conducted by a man who clearly understands the music and is able to inspire his players. Note-and I don't think I had noticed this before-that whilst the two recent Dutton Havergal Brian discs were recorded over two days by the RSNO this Naxos recording took place over FOUR days. That simply would NOT be possible with a Western orchestra. It probably goes some way to explaining why the performances are so assured and the orchestra sounds so inside the idiom.

.....and the music itself Huh

Ah well, there lies the problem for me. It is impressive, it sounds grand, it engages my intellect.....but there is something missing, something intangible, something as allusive as the music itself. Ultimately....it does not move me, it fails to elicit an emotional response-as I respond to Wagner, or Bruckner, or Sibelius, or Vaughan Williams, or Shostakovich, for example.

Why Huh Well partly that lies in my own emotional aesthetic and its response to the music I hear but it is also, it seems to me, that Brian is so terse, so elliptical that he does not allow the music the time to grow and expand in my consciousness...........as it does over the long haul of a symphony say by one of the composers I listed above.
The journey is too short! I am gripped by a particular passage and next moment it is gone, to be replaced by something which might sound quite different.

It IS fascinating music. It IS good music......but, there is a "but" Grin

In some ways turning to the final piece on the disc, the English Suite No.1, is a "relief"(is not the right word). It is simpler, more straightforward music. Its aspirations are so much more obvious- to depict scenes of nature or carnival I can picture in my imagination.

Brian's music undoubtedly repays intensive study and repeated listenings. It will always impress me......but it will never quite fully match the work of the composers I still regard as the giants of the last 150 years.
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kyjo
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« Reply #50 on: May 04, 2013, 09:25:49 pm »

Ah well, there lies the problem for me. It is impressive, it sounds grand, it engages my intellect.....but there is something missing, something intangible, something as allusive as the music itself. Ultimately....it does not move me, it fails to elicit an emotional response-as I respond to Wagner, or Bruckner, or Sibelius, or Vaughan Williams, or Shostakovich, for example.

Why Huh Well partly that lies in my own emotional aesthetic and its response to the music I hear but it is also, it seems to me, that Brian is so terse, so elliptical that he does not allow the music the time to grow and expand in my consciousness...........as it does over the long haul of a symphony say by one of the composers I listed above.

Spot-on, Colin! I experience the exact same problems with Brian's later works. They are fascinatingly complex but there is not enough "heart" in them to cause an emotional response. There just isn't much that makes me sit up and get involved with the music. Still, I regard Brian as a seminal composer and will continue to admire his earlier work Smiley
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J.Z. Herrenberg
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« Reply #51 on: May 04, 2013, 11:19:06 pm »

I hope to respond tomorrow!
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calyptorhynchus
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« Reply #52 on: May 05, 2013, 12:47:31 am »

As I've intimated here and there (including on the GMG Composer Discussion forum), for me Brian is a preeminent composer because his music embodies what Nielsen described as the 'current' that all music must possess.

That is, for the very first bar, harmony, rhythm and melody shape the piece so that the listener is led through it and, at the end, the impression left is completely inevitable organic growth, which, however, continues to exhibit new facets on every listening.

Most pre-modern composers had this has a mysterious ability, but after Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn the ability seems to have been lost throughout the C19 (except for Bruckner) and wasn't rediscovered until Nielsen and Sibelius. In the C20 other composers who demonstrate it almost all the time are Brian and Robert Simpson, and others display it frequently, eg Mahler, Vaughan Williams, David Matthews, Shostakovich, Janis Ivanovs, David Diamond &c

However, other C20 composers who are discussed on these forums (whom I won't mention for fear of offending people), hardly display this quality at all.

Brian, for me, displays this quality the best of all in the C20 precisely because his music is so concise and elliptical that it front stages it. It's frustrating that he doesn't have more recordings of his works (but you could say that about many C20 composers eg Diamond, Ivanovs &c, it's strange how the recording industry chooses its darlings (many of whom aren't very good at all), and there are 20-30 recordings of pieces which won't bear much listening at all.

If we only had one or two recordings of two or three Mahler symphonies and had to make do with poor quality radio broadcasts of the rest I don't think many people would be on to Mahler either.
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Gauk
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« Reply #53 on: May 05, 2013, 07:53:19 am »

If we only had one or two recordings of two or three Mahler symphonies and had to make do with poor quality radio broadcasts of the rest I don't think many people would be on to Mahler either.

Well, of course that was the case at one point.
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J.Z. Herrenberg
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« Reply #54 on: May 05, 2013, 01:10:33 pm »

I understand Colin's and Kyjo's problems, but I also know exactly what calyptorhynchus is saying.

First, let's be clear - what music comprises 'late Brian'? The final 27 symphonies were all written after the age of 72! I always divide Brian's symphonic canon into four periods: 1-5, 6-12, 13-17, 18-32. Between symphonies 17 and 18 something happens to Brian and his style. He was 85 at the time. The music 'cools down', becomes more abstract, more contrapuntal. 'Romantic' passages that touch the heart remain, but sometimes they can be like flowers bursting through concrete...

I think that when Colin speaks about 'late Brian', he means this Brian, the Brian of symphonies 18-32. If that is so, I think that he is right that especially No. 23 is among the most abrasive and least 'appealing' of Brian's symphonies, and I don't 'like' it either, but it is an experience, and for me a compelling one. Calyptorhynchus talks about the 'current', and Brian certainly has that in spades. The music may not be beautiful, but it is 'there', like a very hard and very incontestable fact, and it's up to us to do something with it or not.

Symphonies 22-24 are a trilogy. No. 22 sets out the problem. It is a powerful work, very urgent, and I do think that Brian leaves enough breathing space. So, for all its brevity, No. 22 doesn't seem too short. No. 23 certainly does. Why? Harold Truscott once said that Brian sometimes could err on the side of terseness, and he mentions No. 23... Still, if we consider the symphony the middle part of a triptych, and one of a very warlike and uncomfortable nature, then the work does make sense. We're really in the 'mle', in the fray. We cannot desert, the battle is all around us. It's all sound and fury. But even here Brian intersperses moments of calm. But, I agree, they are not enough to let us forget that we're in the middle of something very harsh and unrelenting. And that is the whole point. In the final part of the trilogy, No. 24, the worst is over, so much so, that Brian can end the whole journey with a spacious and tranquil Adagio (which Alexander Walker should have taken slower, in my opinion).

Another thing about 'late Brian' - there are several symphonies or individual movements that are approachable and do 'breathe'. I really suggest those still struggling to listen to (again, if needs be) - the slow movements of Nos. 18 and 19, the whole of Symphonies 20, 27, 31. In a less overtly Romantic way than earlier symphonies, these certainly, in my opinion, can move you and leave you enough time to register every 'episode'.

One final remark: I know a Dutch writer and poet, Sybren Polet. He is now almost 90. He says he isn't able to write novels anymore because these take too long, demand a mental endurance he cannot muster anymore. So what does he write? Very elliptical and intellectually agile poetry... I think that in late Brian we have the privilege of entering the mind of a very old man. That the world he creates is more 'skeletal' than we should like is then only to be expected.
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jimfin
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« Reply #55 on: May 06, 2013, 12:14:21 am »

Fascinating analysis, J.Z.! Thank you so much.
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J.Z. Herrenberg
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« Reply #56 on: May 06, 2013, 12:18:58 am »

You're welcome! And call me Johan!
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #57 on: May 06, 2013, 12:26:49 am »

Johan has-as was to be expected-written a thoughtful post which certainly helps to explain the background to the later Brian symphonies (and by "later" I do, of course, mean those from No.20 onwards).

I do not for one moment question the absolute musical integrity which underpins this later Brian. And I accept that this was a very old man who contracted the essence of what he is trying to say into music which is terse and ellpitical. The fact that this may make it more difficult for the listener to grasp is undeniable....which is why I did say that the music certainly does require and repay frequent hearings and study.

I also accept that Nos.22-24 are indeed a trilogy and should be listened to as such. Whether Brian should have combined the three into one-slightly different work-is a moot point....but he didn't, so that is that.

I repeat....I do admire the music enormously. My difficulty remains that because, as Johan writes, it is "harsh and unrelenting" and the moments of beauty and tranquillity are so brief and fleeting the music engages but does not "move" me.

Now, in that respect, Brian is certainly no "worse" than a whole raft of composers whose music has an enormous appeal to me. Indeed, he is palpably better than many of them Smiley Symphonists like-to pick at total random-William Schuman or Vagn Holmboe or, indeed, Robert Simpson himself-wrote music which I admire, "like", am engaged by. Simpson is indeed one of my favourite composers but, at least with Simpson, the music seems to develop over a longer time-span which makes it easier for the listener "to follow". There is absolutely no reason why Brian should have sought to make it "easy" for the listener. Indeed, given his probable perception that there was relatively little chance of the music being ever performed at all, he is writing exactly and precisely what HE wanted to write.

Early Brian-by which I mean Symphonies Nos. 1-3, 6-10 in particular-have extended passages of such nobility and grandeur that "my breath is taken away". In their, obviously, more extended span I can more easily follow the journey.

This is not intended as criticism of Brian's later music.....let me be quite clear about that! It is merely a stumbling attempt to explain why I find it more difficult to "respond" to the music. If I take a Vaughan Williams symphony or a symphony like Nielsen's 4th or 5th or Shostakovich's 8th or 10th there is a cumulative picture being steadily assembled in my consciousness that grows, develops and ultimately produces an "effect", an "impact" which is an emotional response of incredible power(which is what I mean when I say "moves me"). That is what I find more difficult in late Brian.
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J.Z. Herrenberg
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« Reply #58 on: May 06, 2013, 12:46:42 am »

Thanks for the reaction, Colin. I think the major difficulty with late Brian lies in the fact that it is hard to know what sort of story he is telling, if at all. With the RVW, Nielsen and Shostakovich symphonies you mention, you get a strong sense of the music starting somewhere and ending somewhere else. Something has been achieved, there is a feeling of cause and effect. Brian, on the other hand, seems to explore or survey a certain space, without necessarily reaching a conclusion...
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #59 on: May 06, 2013, 01:01:26 am »

Thanks for the reaction, Colin. I think the major difficulty with late Brian lies in the fact that it is hard to know what sort of story he is telling, if at all. With the RVW, Nielsen and Shostakovich symphonies you mention, you get a strong sense of the music starting somewhere and ending somewhere else. Something has been achieved, there is a feeling of cause and effect. Brian, on the other hand, seems to explore or survey a certain space, without necessarily reaching a conclusion...

Yes Smiley
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