One of the most grown-up review sites around

52,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free

we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

absolutely thrilling

immediacy and spontaneity

Schumann Lieder

24 Preludes
one of the finest piano discs

‘Box of Delights.’

J S Bach A New Angle
Organ fans form an orderly queue

a most welcome issue

I enjoyed it tremendously

the finest traditions of the house

music for theorbo
old and new

John Luther Adams
Become Desert
concealing a terrifying message

ground-breaking, winning release

screams quality

Surprise of the month

English Coronation, 1902-1953
magnificent achievement

Plain text for smartphones & printers

We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Havergal BRIAN (1876?972)
Symphony No. 22 Symphonia Brevis (1964-65) [9:22]
Symphony No. 23 (1964-65) [13:54]
Symphony No. 24 in D major (1964-65) [16:29]
English Suite No. 1, Op. 12 (1905-06) [25:51]
New Russia State Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Walker
rec. Studio 5, Russian State TV & Radio Company, KULTURA, Moscow, 26-27, 30-31 Aug 2012.
NAXOS 8.572833 [65:26]

Havergal Brian lived four years short of a century. For some eighty of those years he wrote music. His 32 symphonies form the single most numerous aspect of his production and extend over the longest period of his eight active decades.
The four works here are drawn from close to the extremes of his writing period. The three symphonies are from the mid-1960s when he had less than ten years left. The Suite is from his vigorous twenties.
The symphonies communicate to me as a collage of voices: sometimes consonant and sometimes in collision. Those voices are variously mysterious, tender, prayerful, sardonic, furious and embattled. On the surface the progress of the symphonies proceeds awkwardly and with Bruckner-style silences along the way. Of these three examples the Symphonia Brevis is the most impressive. Setting the special case of The Gothic to one side, after the Sixth Symphony, the Brevis is the most memorable. It's also the one where artistic logic and emotional symmetry are at their most compelling. The effect of an epic is achieved in only 9:22 and in that sense the Brevis compares with the somewhat longer Rubbra Eleventh Symphony. I remember playing the work to groove destruction when the CBS LP came out (you can still hear that performance on Klassic House). It is a remarkable work and forms a weird but fitting counterpart to The Gothic.
Numbers 23 and 24 appear here in their first ever recordings. This leaves - I think - only No. 5 (Wine of Summer) to be recorded before all are available on commercial CD. No. 23 is eerie, belligerent and seethes with incident. As always with Brian the writing is tonal. If it is not instantly accessible it is because of his compression of argument. The composer leaves it to the audience to fill in the dots between his at times disconcerting transitions. At first blush Brian's building blocks can be heard as an extrusion from the material of Vaughan Williams' Fourth Symphony though the progress of No. 23 differs from that of the RVW. Just as with No. 24 - which unlike its two predecessors is in a single movement - concision and compression are the order of the day. Episodes melt or blast into one another at a sometimes disorientating pelt. Brian offers the reassurance of familiarity in the shape of moments in the first movement of No. 23 which evoke the final awed pages of The Gothic. There's also a strangely familiar valedictory gesture at the very end of the second and final movement; I just cannot quite place it. No. 24 piles in with a confident march gesture but this soon falls away into the pell-mell of calculated motes and shards. First time around some of these will speak to you while others will leave you high and dry. The symphony ends with scathing and corrosive fanfare material that is suddenly transformed into something unequivocally heroic.
At the other extreme comes the Suite. It's the first of five, of which only four have survived. The six substantial movements are light in the sense that Dvorak's and Smetana's suites and dances can be considered light. There is humour aplenty here but mixed in with moments of rural bliss, sentimentality, Nutcracker magic (Interlude and Carnival), sonorous praise. If you have heard the old BBC broadcast of Brian's opera The Tigers then some of this material will have a familiar ring. The movements of the suite are: I. Characteristic March; II. Valse; III. Under the Bench Tree; IV. Interlude; V. Hymn; VI. Carnival.
The liner-note is by long-time Brian champion - and so much more, witness his work on Tempo - Malcolm MacDonald. It completes a well assembled and generous disc which, given the presence of the Suite and the wild yet rigorous fantasy of the Symphonia Brevis, serves as a welcoming gateway to Brian enthusiasts existing and potential.

Rob Barnett
NOTE: I am grateful to Colin Mackie for a correction to my review: In fact there is still some way to go before before all but one of the Brian symphonies have been recorded. The following symphonies ARE available commercially: No.1 “Gothic”: Naxos , Testament and Hyperion No.2: Naxos No.3: Hyperion No.4 “Das Siegeslied”: Naxos No.6: Lyrita No.7: EMI No.8: EMI No.9: EMI and Dutton No.10: Dutton No.11: Naxos and Dutton No.12: Naxos No.13: Dutton No.15: Naxos No.16: Lyrita No.17: Naxos No.18: Naxos No.20: Naxos No.22: Naxos No.23: Naxos No.24: Naxos No.25: Naxos No.30: Dutton No.31: EMI No.32: Naxos Available “semi-commercially” from Klassic Haus are:- No.2 No.3 No.4 “Das Siegeslied” No.5 “Wine of Summer” No.8 No.10 No.14 No.18 No.19 No.21 No.22 No.28 That still leaves Nos. 26, 27 and 29 unrecorded. A case of watch this space but 'completion' is in sight.