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Brian, Cooke - Symphonies
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Brian, Cooke - Symphonies

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Myer Fredman
6 Jan 2009 | Format: MP3

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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 25 Jan 2009
  • Label: Lyrita
  • Copyright: 2009 Lyrita
  • Total Length: 1:00:23
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B001R514ZM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 79,441 in MP3 Albums (See Top 100 in MP3 Albums)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By The Boneman on 24 July 2010
Format: Audio CD
The original Lyrita LP of Symphonies 6 and 16 was my first introduction to Havergal Brian, and I'm grateful that the recording is now available on CD.

What we have here is one of Brian's most approachable symphonies (No 6), paired with one of his greatest (No 16).
The sixth, "Sinfonia Tragica", is redolent of Irish mists and ancient Celtic battles. The prominence of the harp in its first section adds to this Celtic flavour. In some ways it has an atmosphere similar to Vaughan Williams' sixth, with a gloriously lyrical tune at its heart, surrounded by violence, conflict and tragedy. The percussion-driven final section brings to mind shield-walls and battleaxes, and reminds me of two other (widely disparate) examples of great British music - parts of Arthur Bliss's superb ballet suite "Checkmate", and the album "Ours is the Kingdom" by the excellent heavy-metal band Forefather.(Especially the opening track, appropriately named "The Shield-Wall".)

Technically the musicianship is top-notch; however I agree with reviewer R. A. Howe that more soaring passion could have been injected into the work's lyrical peaks - after all, Brian doesn't write Big Tunes too often and conductors should wallow in them a bit!

Number 16 is, for me, Brian's greatest symphony next to the "Gothic" (No 1) - yet these two works couldn't be more different; the "Gothic" is a gigantic, labyrinthine structure demanding unprecedented choral and orchestral forces, whilst the 16th is all over in under 20 minutes. Yet No.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mr. R. A. Howe on 14 Dec 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The two symphonies by Brian on this CD are amongst the handful of the finest he composed, and are uncontestably amongst the greatest symphonic music in their preiod. Brian's language is very original. His music is tonal, but not diatonic. There is a liberal use of dissonance, and the polyphionic nature of the writing means that we seldom are treated to straightforward "chord progressions" (as that is just not how the polyphony works). One could describe the style as something like Hindemith, with influences from Elgar, possibly a dash of Richard Strauss, some of Beethoven's sense of heroism, with a weird sort of phantasmagorical vein going on.

The 6th symphony dates from 1948 and had its origins as an overture for an uncomposed opera based on "Dierdre of the Sorrows" by Synge. The work is however truly symphonic. It is the first symphony by Brian where he moves away from earlier highly extended forms (derived from a Brucknerian sense of scale) into a highly compressed argument. The short duration of the work (under 20 minutes) gives the impression of a far larger scale. The little preludial section itself traverses a vast amount of ground in just a few bars of extremely gestural music indeed. The work is of tragic aspect, and we are yet treated to one rather gorgeous "big tune" (as it were) used during the central and largest section of the work. The symphony is a very approachable work, easy to follow both structurally and emotionally, and without the often-disconcerting abruptness of Brian's later works. It is a superb introduction to the composer.

The 16th symphony from 1960 is one of Brian's best two or three works. It is a knottier beast to grasp on first hearing.
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Format: Audio CD
After the famously huge No 1 "Gothic" Brian's next three were also expansive, large works. But numbers 5 (1937) and 6 (1948) are smaller, the first of Brian's many single movement symphonies, and more conventionally thematic. No 6 has the title "Sinfonia tragica" and lasts about 25 minutes. It was originally intended as the prelude to an opera based on J M Synge's Deirdre of the Sorrows. It had to wait until 1966 for its first performance.

Symphonies 13-to 17 form another consecutive series of highly compressed single movement works, but these five were written in quick succession, between 1959 and 1961, The set was begun after the 83 year-old Brian had moved to a council flat in Shoreham-on-Sea, overlooking the beach. No 16 dates from 1960, but it disn't receive its first performance until 1973. Unusually for Brian it's in pastoral mood, though with this composer nothing is that straightforward - this work has been described as "troubled Delius". It uses a building block, contrast and relief form, and has been orchestrated with plentiful percussion.

Arnold Cooke (1906- 2005) wrote six symphonies over his long life. No 3 in D dates from 1967, a more conventional three movement work that fits somewhere in between Hindemith and William Walton. Cooke hasn't been served well by the recording industry, so this recording is valuable. I'd love to see a re-issued recording of his once highly regarded song cycle with chamber ensemble, The Seamew (1980).
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