HAVERGAL BRIAN (1876-1972): Symphonies No. 6 "Sinfonia Tragica", No. 28 (Sinfonia in C Minor)*, No. 29 in E Flat* and No. 31. * - World Premiere Recordings.
Catalogue Number: 04Q002
Description: The 28th is a very strange specimen indeed, and depending on your point of view could be held up as either an example of why late Brian is 'difficult', or of why he is uniquely great. In correspondence he referred to it first as a divertimento, then as a Sinfonia, though it was included in the canon of his numbered symphonies. It opens with an easy-going, lighthearted mood, but simply cannot sustain it. The development of motifs from the opening becomes progressively darker and more ambiguous, and the appearance of a noble, Elgarian theme at the beginning of the slow movement signals not the return to a backward looking civilisation, but rather the collapse into a finale of extraordinary modernity and percussive violence, as terrifying as the 'scherzo' of the Gothic. No. 29 followed immediately, and is very different; classically proportioned, in four clearly delineated movements - the first based on sonata form, the slow movement a gently somber rolling English landscape, the scherzo a lightly scored ternary form - arranged in two large sections, it is far more harmonically stable than its predecessor, and here the nobility of some very Elgarian turns of phrase is allowed to dvelop, rather than being cruelly distorted and then dismissed. No. 31, by contrast, is very much conceived as a single span. Lucidly scored, it emphasizes elegant, though sometimes tense, counterpoint over grand, apocalyptic statements, and it is an attractive work full of youthful freshness (the composer was 92!). No. 6 is the first of Brian's 'late' period - he was already 70 - and points toward the greater concentration of ideas and economy of scale of the later symphonies, while retaining a sense of narrative drama rather than the compressed, oblique argument that characterizes the works of his final years. New Russia State Symphony Orchestra; Alexander Walker.