Magazine article Gramophone

Brian: Symphonies-No 6

Magazine article Gramophone

Brian: Symphonies-No 6

Article excerpt


Symphonies--No 6, 'Sinfonia tragica'; No 28; No 29; No 31

New Russia State Symphony Orchestra / Alexander Walker

Naxos [B] 8 573408 (70 * DDD)

Mirabile dictu: a release of four Havergal Brian symphonies--cause for celebration in itself--two of which have not been recorded before! What a diverse set they make, too, remarkably so given the later three date from 18 months during 1967-68.

Alexander Walker's interpretations of Nos 6 and 31 stand up well against their older rivals (Mackerras's No 31 for EMI is currendy unavailable) and in the Sinfonia tragica (1947-48, reworked from material for an abandoned opera on Synge's Deirdre of the Sorrows) he produces a marvellously nuanced, rather Russian-sounding performance, with some occasionally Shostakovichian brass. Comparisons with Fredman reveal a few infelicities of ensemble and two curious errors: the solo trumpeter is too loud and forwardly placed, so that his early fanfares lack the mystery they need, and only a single side-drummer seems to be used, instead of the three Brian required, so that the tramp of doom that gradually overtakes the music does not have the bite Brian wanted, and Fredman delivered. …

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