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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Havergal Brian - Symphony No. 1 ''Gothic'' (Martyn Brabbins)


Composer: Havergal Brian

  1. Symphony No. 1 in D minor "The Gothic": Part 1 - 1. Allegro assai
  2. Symphony No. 1 in D minor "The Gothic": Part 1 - 2. Lento espressivo & solenne
  3. Symphony No. 1 in D minor "The Gothic": Part 1 - 3. Vivace
  4. Symphony No. 1 in D minor "The Gothic": Part 2 - 1. Te Deum laudamus. Allegro moderato
  1. Symphony No. 1 in D minor "The Gothic": Part 2 - 2. Iudex crederis esse venturus. Adagio molto solenne e religioso
  2. Symphony No. 1 in D minor "The Gothic": Part 2 - 3. Te ergo, quaesumus. Moderato e molto sostenuto

Susan Gritton, soprano
Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano
Peter Auty, tenor
Alastair Miles, bass
David Goode , organ

The Bach Choir
BBC National Chorus of Wales
Brighton Festival Chorus
CBSO Youth Chorus
Côr Caerdydd
Eltham College Boys' Choir
Huddersfield Choral Society
London Symphony Chorus
Southend Boys' and Girls' Choirs

BBC National Orchestra of Wales
BBC Concert Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins, conductor

Date: 2011
Label: Hyperion




The only serious competition for this new recording of Havergal Brian’s visionary, sometimes magnificent, sometimes loony “Gothic” Symphony comes from the Naxos/Marco Polo recording featuring a good chunk of the population of Bratislava. There’s no question that this is the finer performance, both sonically and technically. Martyn Brabbins has the two orchestras playing the often virtuoso writing (especially the brass parts) amazingly well for a single live performance. The horns in the scherzo observe all of their dynamic nuances correctly, and the xylophone player tackles Brian’s patently insane part with stunning brilliance.

Most importantly, the choirs actually make music out of Brian’s densely woven counterpoint. Yes, the words are generally unintelligible, and tenor Peter Auty is nothing special, but for the most part the singing is amazingly confident and purposeful. There are moments, especially in the fifth movement, with its soprano vocalise and trumpet fanfares, that truly are magical. The Albert Hall acoustic and the presence of an audience suck up some of the bass frequencies, but the live recording, before a very quiet audience, is otherwise very good. The disc includes more than eight minutes of applause at the end, and though you’d be crazy to listen to it even once, it was certainly well-earned. Kudos especially to Brabbins for steering this potential Titantic of symphonies safely into port.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:


Havergal Brian (29 January 1876 – 28 November 1972) was a British classical composer. Brian was extremely prolific, his body of work including thirty two symphonies, many of them extremely long and ambitious works for massive orchestral forces. Brian enjoyed a period of significant popularity earlier in his career and rediscovery in the 1950s, though his music fell out of favour and since the 1970s he is vary rarely studied and performed. Today, he is often remembered for his First Symphony which calls for the largest orchestral force demanded by any conventionally structured concert work.


Martyn Brabbins (born 13 August 1959) is a British conductor. He studied composition at Goldsmiths, University of London, and studied conducting with Ilya Musin at the Leningrad Conservatory. He made a significant mark through recordings not in standard repertory and as one of the main conductors involved in Hyperion's extensive Romantic Piano Concerto series. Brabbins has conducted commercial recordings of music for such labels as Warner, Chandos, Hyperion, NMC, Nimbus, and Deutsche Grammophon.


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