Archives for category: The Listening Post

Hound From 1917, the Carnegie Trust in the UK began a scheme to encourage the publication of large scale British musical works by asking composers to submit manuscripts. An anonymous panel chose up to six works per year for an award – publication at the expense of the Trust, in conjunction with Stainer and Bell. Unfortunately the war delayed things for the earliest prizewinners. The first to be published (in 1918) was the Piano Quartet in A minor by Herbert Howells. (It caught the attention of the young William Walton, who successfully submitted his own Piano Quartet six years later). By the end of 1920 some 13 works were available. 30 were out by the end of 1922, and when the scheme finally closed in 1928 some 60 substantial works that might not otherwise have seen the light of day had been issued under the Carnegie Collection of British Music imprint.

Today these scores with their distinctive covers aren’t all that easy to find – and they haven’t aged well. I recently bought a copy of Cyril Rootham’s Brown Earth on Ebay – this was once a very popular choral piece. Probably the most commercially successful of all the Carnegie works was Holst’s Hymn of Jesus, but it’s the hidden gems and almost forgotten composers that provide the fascination. Recently there’s been a successful revival of the W H Harris choral work Hound of Heaven, which might be followed up with a recording.

Finding out about this collection of scores isn’t easy today. A 2014 dissertation from the University of Iowa includes some very useful research, and a collection of most (over 50) or the scores is held at the Maughan Library (part of Kings College, London, on the Strand). I couldn’t find an accessible list anywhere on the Internet, so below is an alphabetical list of the holdings at Maughan Library.

Edgar Bainton (1880-1956). Concerto Fantasia: for piano and orchestra. Before Sunrise: a symphony for contralto solo, chorus, and orchestra. (1922)

Granville Bantock (1868-1946). Hebridean Symphony.

Herbert Bedford (1867-1945). Night Piece, The Shepherd: for voice (contralto or mezzo), flute, oboe, and piano.(1925)

Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960). Pastoral Fantasy: for string quartet (1924).

Rutland Boughton (1878-1960). The Immortal Hour: music-drama (1923).

York Bowen (1884-1961). String Quartet No 2 in D minor, op 41.

Ina Boyle (1889-1967). The Magic Harp: rhapsody for orchestra.

Sam Hartley Braithwaite (1883-1951). Elegy: for orchestra (1927). Snow Picture: for orchestra. (1924)

Frank Bridge (1879-1941). The Sea: suite for orchestra.

Alan Bush (1900-1995). String Quartet in A minor, op 4. (1925)

Lawrence A Collingwood (1887-1982). Poeme Symphonique: for orchestra.

Learmont Drysdale (1866-1909). Tam o’Shanter: concert overture.

Thomas Dunhill (1877-1946). The Enchanted Garden: opera in one act, op 65. (1925)

George Dyson (1883-1964). Three Rhapsodies: for string quartet, op 7.

David Evans 1843-1913. Concerto for String Orchestra, op 7. (1928)

Harry Farjeon (1878-1948). Phantasy Concerto: for piano and chamber orchestra, op 64 (1926). St Dominic Mass: for choir, orchestra, solo soprano, tenor and solo violin, op 51 (1923).

Ernest Farrar (1885-1918). Three Spiritual Studies: for string orchestra, op 33. English Pastoral Impressions: suite for orchestra.(1925)

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956). A Severn Rhapsody: for chamber orchestra. (1924)

Nicholas Gatty (1874-1946). Prince Ferelon, or, The Princess’s Suitors: a musical extravaganza in one act.

Cecil Armstrong Gibbs. The Blue Peter: a comic opera in one act. (1925)

Ivor Gurney (1890-1937). The Western Playland: song-cycle for baritone voice, string quartet and piano (1926). Ludlow and Teme: song-cycle for tenor voice, string quartet and piano.

W H Harris (1883-1973). The Hound of Heaven, for baritone solo, chorus & orchestra.

Edward Norman Hay (1889-1943). String Quartet in A major.

Victor Hely-Hutchinson (1901-1947). Variations, Intermezzo, Scherzo & Finale: for orchestra. (1927)

Gustav Holst (1874-1934). The Hymn of Jesus: for two choruses, semi-chorus and full orchestra, op 37.

Howells, Herbert (1892-1983). Piano Quartet in A minor, op 21. Rhapsodic Quintet: clarinet quintet, op 31. (1921)

John Blackwood McEwen (1868-1948). Solway Symphony.

Jeffrey Mark (1898-1965). Scottish Suite: for violins and piano. (1928)

Percy Hilder Miles (1878-1922). Sextet in G minor.

Robin Milford (1903-1959). Double Fugue for Orchestra, op 10. (1927)

Edward Mitchell. Fantasy Overture: for orchestra (with six horns).

R O Morris (1886-1948). Fantasy: for string quartet.

Cyril Rootham (1875-1938). Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, for soloists, chorus, semi chorus & orchestra. Brown Earth, for chorus, semi-chorus & orchestra. (1929)

Alec Rowley (1892-1958). The Princess Who Lost a Tune: ballet-mime. (1927)

Cyril Scott (1879-1970). Nativity Hymn: for chorus, soli and orchestra.

Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924). Symphony No 5 in D major L’Allegro ed il Pensieroso, op 56. The Travelling Companion: opera in four acts, op 146.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). A London Symphony.

Alfred M Wall (1875 – ????). Quartet for Piano & Strings in C minor.

William Walton (1902-1983). Piano Quartet in A minor. (1924)

Peter Warlock (1894-1930). The Curlew: song cycle for tenor solo, flute, English horn, and string quartet.(1924)

Felix Harold White (1884-1945). The Nymph’s Complaint: poem for oboe (or violin), viola & piano. (1922). Four Proverbs, for flute, oboe violin, viola and cello (1925).

W G Whittaker (1876-1944). A Lyke-Wake Dirge: for chorus and orchestra (1925). Among the Northumbrian Hills: free variations on an original theme for piano and string quartet.

Stanley Wilson (1899-1953). A Skye Symphony, op 38. (1928)

Leslie Woodgate (1902-1961). A Hymn to the Virgin: for baritone solo, men’s voices, strings, piano and organ.



With James MacMillan’s Symphony No 4 just performed at the Proms, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of representative British symphonies composed over the past decade. I’ve listed one symphony per year and made it a rule that no composer can have more than one entry. The dates used refer to the premiere performance where possible or to the date of composition where the premiere took place a long time after the work was composed (or where there hasn’t yet been a concert performance).

As with all these things, this inevitably leads to some compromises – 2006 and 2011 were “famine years” as far as the symphony was concerned, whereas 2007 was crowded with new works. Omissions from the list include works by Ronald Stevenson and Giles Swayne (both 2007), and by Ronald Corp (2009) – not to mention just as notable alternative symphonies from the listed composers and many others by perhaps lesser known names, such as the highly prolific Derek Bourgeois, who has now written over 100 symphonies.

Excluding Bourgeois, there are over 50 symphonies on my full list that were composed or premiered between 2005 and 2015 – and I’m sure there are more that I’ve missed. Astonishingly, recordings are available for all but two of the eleven symphonies listed.

James MacMillan: Symphony No 4 (premiere 3 August 2015, BBC Proms). The Proms premiere of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie in 1990 made MacMillan internationally known. The first symphony “Vigil” came out in 1997, followed by No 2 (for chamber orchestra) in 1999 and No 3 “Silence” in 2002. (Listen again).

Michael Nyman: Symphony No 11 “Hillsborough” (premiere 5 July 2014, Liverpool). Nyman recently began to plan a series of 19 symphonies, some of them re-using themes and material from earlier works. The first of these (starting at numbers 5 and 6) received their premieres in 2013. Recording: MN Records

David Owen Norris: Symphony (premiere 27 May 2013, Dorchester). David Owen Norris is better known as a pianist and broadcaster, but studied composition with Eric Thiman and John Gardner. The London premiere of his Symphony is on October 1 2015 at St Paul’s Covent Garden, where the Piano Concerto in C and a new choral work, Turning Points, will also be performed.

Peter Maxwell Davies: Symphony No 9 (premiere 9 June 2012, Liverpool). The first of Maxwell Davies’ cycle was composed in 1976 and premiered two years later. Numbers 7 and 8 were both composed in 2000. No 10 was first performed at the Barbican in February 2014. Recording: Youtube

Christopher Gunning: Symphony No 7 (composed 2011). Gunning studied with Edmund Rubbra and Richard Rodney Bennett, but became best known as a composer of film and TV music (such as La Vie en Rose and Poirot). His first symphony was composed in 2002. Most of them have been recorded. Recording: Discovery

David Matthews: Symphony No 7 (premiere 24 April 2010, Manchester). Matthews has written eight symphonies (between 1978 and 2014) with a ninth in the works. The sixth, his biggest, was premiered at the BBC Proms in 2007. Dutton is working on recordings of the full cycle. Recording: Dutton

Richard Causton: Chamber Symphony (premiere 16 October 2009, Birmingham). Causton’s breakthrough work was The Persistence of Memory for chamber orchestra in 1995. His Chamber Symphony uses a combination of live and pre-recorded music. Twenty-Seven Heavens, for large orchestra, premiered in 2012. Recording: NMC

Philip Sawyers: Symphony No 2 (premiere 15 June 2008, Sydenham). Sawyers studied with Buxton Orr, Patric Standford and Edmund Rubbra. He has been particularly successful in the US. Symphony No 1 appeared in 2004. A third symphony has been commissioned by the English Symphony Orchestra. Recording: Nimbus

John McCabe: Symphony No 7 “Labyrinth” (premiere 14 September 2007, Liverpool): McCabe, who died in 2015, wrote thirteen symphonies before he was eleven, but there are seven numbered symphonies in the official catalogue, the first composed in 1965. Recording: Youtube

Arthur Butterworth: Symphony No 6, op 124 (composed 2006, premiere 2009, St Petersburg). As well as the seven numbered symphonies (1956-2012), Butterworth wrote symphonic studies, concertos, brass band pieces and around 40 chamber works. The final symphony (No 7) had its premiere on 28 February 2012 in Huddersfield). Butterworth died in 2014.

Matthew Taylor: Symphony No 3 (premiere 7 January 2005, St John’s Smith Square). Taylor studied at Cambridge under Robin Holloway, and later with Robert Simpson and Malcolm Arnold. His largest body of work is chamber music, but he has also written five concertos and three symphonies, the first in 1985. A fourth symphony has been commissioned for 2015/16 by the Kensington Symphony Orchestra. Recording: Dutton

The Listening Post: Havergal Brian Symphonies (3)
Here is the final part of our three part post summarizing the symphonies of Havergal Brian, covering the final ten numbered symphonies. The term “late period” isn’t really appropriate in Brian’s case, given that the composer wrote 26 of his 32 symphonies between the ages of 72 and his death in 1972, aged 96. The last ten span the final four years of Brian’s composing life, between 1964 and 1968. Within them, numbers 22-24, in particular form a concentrated and related group. Written between December 1964 and August 1965, they all have something of a martial sound and share a concern for march-rhythms, changeable moods and developing variation. Symphonies number 26, 28 and 29 still haven’t attracted interest from mainstream recording companies.

My choice from this group is the Symphony No 22, Brian’s shortest symphony and one of the most tightly organized, with its ghostly, nocturnal march dominating the latter part of the work.

1964-5 – Symphony No 22 “Symphonia Brevis” (fp 1971, Myer Fredman, RPO, St John’s Smith Square): two movement work, at nine minutes long Brian’s shortest symphony. Opening maestoso, with dense polyphony leads to a calm but uneasy march. (Recordings: Naxos; Klassic Haus)

1965 – Symphony No 23 (fp 1973, Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Goodman): another two movement work, Brian considered calling it “Symphonia grandis”. Like its predecessor, includes martial elements (in the opening allegro and prior to the conclusion). “Eerie, belligerent and seethes with incident” (Rob Barnett). (Recordings: Naxos, Klassic Haus).

1965 – Symphony No 24 in D major (fp 1973, Myer Fredman, LPO): single movement, 18 minutes long, but divided into three sections of widely varying mood. Closes with a restful, optimistic adagio. (Recordings: Naxos).

1966 – Symphony No 25 in A minor (fp 18 June 1976, BBC Scottish, John Canarina): this three movement work, first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at the end of 1976, begins with a first movement study in march rhythms. The symphony incorporates “beautiful melodies channeled within a wholly logical (sonata-like) structure…[it] is one of Brian’s most distinguished late works.(Naxos sleeve notes). (Recordings: Naxos).

1966 – Symphony No 26 (fp 5 September 1976, North Stafford Symphony Orchestra, cond. Nicholas Smith): another instance of Brian’s symphonies championed by amateur performance (see also numbers 10, 21, 22 and 29). In this case though, a BBC broadcast followed within a month (NPO, Vernon Handley). Two movements, 16 minutes, freer in form than either No 25 or No 27. (Recordings: Aries, pirated from radio broadcast).

1966 – Symphony No 27 in C major (fp 9 Jan 1979, PO, Mackerras). The Philhamonia recorded this work for a BBC broadcast in 1979, but the first public performance had to wait right until March 2012 by the Orange County High School Orchestra. 22 minutes long, like No 25 makes some use of classical symphonic form. (Recordings: Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Aries (pirated from radio broadcast)).

1967 – Symphony No 28 in C minor (fp 7 June 1973, NPO, Stokowski): also called Sinfonia in C minor, and originally conceived as a Divertimento for orchestra. Brian was 91 when he composed this – Stokowski was 91 when he conducted it for the first performance, a BBC broadcast. In four continuous movements, under 20 minutes long. Neo-classical beginning, anticipating No 29. (Recordings: Aries, pirated from BBC broadcast).

1967 – Symphony No 29 in E flat major: (fp 17 Nov 1976, North Stafffordshire SO, cond. Nicholas Smith). The NSSO had premiered Symphony No 26 two months earlier. A BBC recording (PO, Fredman) was broadcast on 12 March 1979. This is a comparatively straightforward and generally cheerful work in neoclassical style. (Recordings: North Staffordshire SO).

1967 – Symphony No 30 in B flat minor (fp 1976, BBC broadcast, Harry Newstone, NPO): dramatic work in two movements, played without a break. May incorporate material from an opera project Oedipus at Colonnus. Thematically linked with number 22. Powerful coda, ends on a harsh discord. (Recordings: Dutton).

1968 – Symphony No 31 (fp 1979 Mackerras, PO): single movement work, 13 minutes long. Well-proportioned symphony that unusually ends on a final, positive cadence – in sharp contrast to its predecessor. (Recordings: EMI).

1968 – Symphony No 32 in Ab major (fp 28 Jan 1971, Kensington SO, Leslie Head, St John’s Smith Square): the last work of any kind that Brian completed (at the age of 92). It’s an introspective work but not a “summing up”, more of a continued exploration. Four movements, but really in two halves, the first brooding and melancholic, the second energetic and positive, with its dance-like scherzo and polyphonic finale. (Recordings: Naxos).

Part One: A Fantastic Symphony to Symphony No 10
Part Two: Symphony No 11 to Symphony No 21

The Listening Post: Havergal Brian Symphonies (2)
In the second part of our annotated list of Havergal Brian’s 33 symphonies (32 numbered), we start moving into less charted territory. All the first ten numbered symphonies, apart from number 5, are available in commercial recordings. In this group, numbers 14, 19 and 21 have only recently been re-issued and re-mastered by Klassic Haus from previously pirated and misattributed radio broadcasts on the Aries label. Number 21 (along with number 10) has also been re-issued by Klassic Haus, from the pioneering Unicorn recording made by the Lecistershire Schools Symphony Orchestra in the early 1970s.

Numbers 11 to 21 were written over nearly a decade from 1954, when the composer was between the ages of 78 and 87. They continue to explore the “late style” established in Symphonies 8-10. In particular, Symphonies 13-to 17 form a series of five highly compressed single movement works written between 1959 and 1961, begun after the 83 year-old Brian had moved to a council flat in Shoreham-on-Sea, overlooking the beach. Symphonies 18-20 return to something closer to classical forms, with three separate movements. Number 21, in four movements, is my choice from this group. It’s unusually accessible with an opening allegro in something close to sonata form, a relaxed second movement and a sparking scherzo. And the story behind the first recording is a particularly inspiring (and well documented) one.

1954 – Symphony No 11 (fp November 1959, LSO, Newstone): “The Eleventh starts where the Tenth finished, with the same three notes – in inversion – and a very serious Adagio grows from them.” (MusicWeb). This is followed by a joyous scherzo, a march and a long slow section before the finale, one of Brian’s characteristic English Dances. It’s more transparently scored than most of the symphonies, though still full and with an array of percussion. (Recordings: Dutton, Naxos).

1957 – Symphony No 12 (fp November 1959, LSO, Newstone): Brian’s shortest symphony up to this date, an extremely concise single movement, internally suggesting a four movement design with a funeral march at its heart. Inspired by the Greek Tragedy Agamemnon of Aeschylus, which Brian later set as one-act opera.. Argument proceeds by abrupt juxtapositions and intensely dramatic musical gestures (Malcolm MacDonald) (Recordings: Naxos).

1959 – Symphony No 13 in C major (fp 23 June 1976, RPO, Pope): the first of four short, single movement symphonies for large orchestra, lots of woodwind, brass and percussion all written within a 12 month period. This work opens with menacing brass and percussion, leading (between many pauses) to some particularly fierce climaxes. (Recordings: Dutton).

1959-60 – Symphony No 14 in F minor (fp Jan 1969, LSO, Downes): single movement lasting just over 20 minutes, but in four sections. Malcolm MacDonald thought this one of the weakest, and its only recording has been the BBC radio broadcast by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted Edward Downes. (Recordings: Klassic Haus).

1960 – Symphony No 15 in A major (fp 27 June 1976, RPO, Pope): single movement symphony scored for large orchestra. “This work takes another look at pompousness and circumstance and magnificence and ceremonial, and ways of undercutting these things….monumental subversion raised to a fine art”. (Malcolm MacDonald, quoted here). (Recordings: Naxos).

1960 – Symphony No 16 (fp 1 April 1973, LPO, Fredman): pastoral mood (described as “troubled Delius”). Building block, contrast and relief form, orchestrated with glittering percussion. (Recordings: Lyrita).

196o-61 – Symphony No 17 (fp 23 June 1976, RPO, Pope): after numbers 13-16, single movement works for large orchestra, written over the previous 12 months, No 17 is for a smaller orchestra (though still with two tubas and lots of percussion) and is shorter still – around 13 minutes long. “One of Brian’s most abstract and elliptical utterances: there are fleeting hints of Romantic imagery and mysterious hymnody, but in general it might be considered as a species of polyphonic fantasia in several clearly-defined sections, a kind of orchestral equivalent…to the big keyboard toccatas of Bach…’ (Malcolm MacDonald, quoted here). (Recordings: Naxos).

1961 – Symphony No 18 (fp Feb 1962, Polyphonia Orchestra, Bryan Fairfax): written (on the request of Fairfax) for smaller forces than any other Brian symphony. though percussion is still actively employed. Breaks from the one movement form of Nos 13-17, including three separate movements suggesting classical forms. This one opens with a “hard-bitten march” (sleeve notes). (Recordings: Naxos, Klassic Haus).

1961 – Symphony No 19 in E minor (fp 18 June 1976, BBC Scottish, John Canarina): another three movement “classical” work, but much lighter in mood than its predecessor, especially in the dance rhythms of the outer movements. (Recordings: Klassic Haus, Royal Scottish National Orchestra).

1962 – Symphony No 20 in C sharp minor (fp 5 Oct 1976, NPO, Vernon Handley): “Compact, thematically sophisticated, and deeply expressive – abandons Brian’s previous practice of one-movement symphonies in favour of the more classical three movements.” (Naxos sleeve notes). (Recordings: Naxos).

1963 – Symphony No 21 in E flat major (fp 14 Jan 1969, LSO, Downes). The 1973 Unicorn LP (now restored by Klassic Haus) was the first ever commercial recording of Havergal Brian’s music, by the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra, and was made just a few months before the composer’s death aged 96. Composer Robert Simpson advised the orchestra to tackle Nos 10 and 21 and helped with the rehearsals, and the TV arts programme Aquarius filmed the recording session. (Recordings: Klassic Haus).

Part One: A Fantastic Symphony to Symphony No 10
Part Three: Symphony No 22 to Symphony No 32

550533-34 bk Mahler EU The Listening Post: Havergal Brian Symphonies (1)

This is an exploration for me – I’m aware that Havergal Brian (1876-1972) has many followers who make great claims for his music – but personally, I find his compositional style hard to crack. Continuous development doesn’t give you much to latch onto, and violent juxtapositions of style within a short space of time can get tiresome. Nevertheless, I’m intrigued by such a substantial body of work, and so have put this annotated list of the 33 symphonies together, culled mostly from reviews and sleeve notes, in order to help get my head around it. I’ll publish it in three parts and choose one representative movement from each part. For further information, two of the best sources are the Havergal Brian Society website and the astonishing three volumes on the symphonies by Malcolm MacDonald, extremely expensive, but available in good libraries.

As for recordings, we are getting close to having a full set available. Only seven of the 32 numbered symphonies – (that’s numbers 14, 19, 21 and 26 to 29) are as yet unavailable in mainstream commercial recordings, and there are recordings of these as well if you search around (from BBC broadcast material and amateur performances – Klassic Haus has recently been issuing re-mastered versions of some of these recordings). So – here is the annotated list covering what’s left of A Fantastic Symphony through to Number 10. The famously huge No 1 “Gothic” anchors this group, and the next three are also expansive, large works. Numbers 5 and 6 are smaller (the first of Brian’s many single movement symphonies) and more conventionally thematic. Number 7, a transitional work, is again epic, with four separate movements, but already looking towards the composer’s late style: episodic and fragmented, continuous development and rapid changes of mood. The last three (numbers 8, 9 and 10) are representative of that late style and were regarded by Brian as a trilogy – he called them “brothers”. Brian was 73 years old when he started number 8, and 78 by the time he had completed number 10 – but he still had 22 symphonies to go.

My suggested starting point from this group is the short third movement “ostinato scherzo” of Symphony No 2 with its massed horns, piano and xylophones driving forward an increasingly menacing march. There’s some impressive snarling brass in the second half, and it’s all undeniably exciting. But as layer upon layer is pasted on for the climax, including a passage where everyone joins in with unison downward scales, I do find it a bit clunky. Links to Part Two and Part Three of this list are below.

1907-8 – A Fantastic Symphony: revised through 1909, but then split into three separate works, two of which were published in 1914: Fantastic variations on an old rhyme (the original first movement), Scherzo and slow movement (unpublished, now lost), and Festal Dance (the fourth movement). The “old rhyme” is Three Blind Mice. (Recordings: Cameo, Naxos).

1919-27 – Symphony No 1 “Gothic” (fp 1961, Bryan Fairfax): the most famous of Brian’s symphonies, notorious for the huge forces required. Three orchestral movements, followed by a massive choral setting of the Te Deum. (Recordings: Hyperion, Marco Polo/Naxos and Testament).

1930-31 – Symphony No 2 in E minor (fp May 1973, Kensington Symphony Orchestra, Leslie Head): notable for the brief “battle” scherzo with its 16 horns, and for the melodic passages for the two pianos and three timpani. Striking use of the solo violin in the second movement, Andante sostinuto. Wagnerian elements in the finale. Inspired by Goethe. (Recordings: Naxos, Klassic Haus).

1931-2 – Symphony No 3 in C# minor (fp Jan 1974, New Philharmonic Orchestra, Stanley Pope): for two pianos and large orchestra. Initially conceived as a piano (or two piano) concerto (the pianos feature mostly in the first movement). His most “expansive, objective, heroic and lyrical symphony…Brian’s Eroica” (sleeve notes). (Recordings: Hyperion).

1932-3 – Symphony No 4 in C major Das Siegelied (fp July 1967, Leeds Philharmonic, Handford): “Psalm of Victory” for soprano, two choruses and very large orchestra, contemporary with the rise of Nazism in Germany, is a violent setting of a Lutheran psalm text. There are three linked movements, the second for soprano solo and orchestra. (Recordings: Naxos).

1937 – Symphony No 5 “Wine of Summer” (fp Dec 1969, Kensington Symphony Orchestra, Leslie Head): for voice and orchestra (voice not specified, though baritone or contralto implied). This single movement symphony sets words by Lord Alfred Douglas. “A luxuriant pre-Raphaelite rhapsodic orchestral setting” (Rob Barnett). (Recordings, São Paulo SO, Royal Scottish National Orchestra).

1948 – Symphony No 6 “Sinfonia tragica” (fp Jan 1966, Douglas Robinson, ROH Orchestra): single movement, 25 minute work originally intended as the prelude to an opera based on J M Synge’s Deirdre of the Sorrows. “Masterful and consise” says Rob Barnett. After this and the transitional seventh, he says, the symphonies. become “kaleidoscopic screes, sphinx-like, enigmatic mosaics”. (Recordings: Lyrita).

1948 – Symphony No 7 in C major (fp June 1966, RPO, Newstone): an epic four movement symphony inspired by Goethe’s writings and by the 13th century cathedral of Strasbourg. A transitional work between “the ‘bigness’ of the Gothic, Second, Third and Fourth, the approachable theme-shaping of the Fifth and Sixth, but….already beginning to succumb to the episodic trompe l’oeils and puzzles of the later shorter symphonies”. (Rob Barnett). (Recordings: EMI).

1949 – Symphony No 8 in B flat minor (fp Feb 1954, London PO, Boult): the Eighth “proceeds through a series of motivic, textural tonal and rhythmic oppositions” (Grove). Premiered on BBC radio in 1954, a performance that started off the modern day revival of interest in Brian. (Recordings: EMI, Klassic Haus).

1951 – Symphony No 9 in A minor (fp March 1958, LSO, Del Mar): harks back to the Fourth, 20 years earlier “with its hyper-Handelian grandeur, braggart brass flurries and confident march flourishes” (Rob Barnett). Relatively accessible example of Brian’s single movement works, with more of a discernible form and melodic material. (Recordings: Dutton, EMI).

1954 – Symphony No 10 in C minor (1953-54, fp Nov 1958, Stanley Pope): instrumental drama employed with offstage trumpet and a large array of percussion including thunder and wind machines. “Mighty climaxes and Brian’s quiet, atmospheric Sibelian interludes” (sleeve notes). The Aquarius documentary about the first recording of No 10 features the arresting opening right at the start. (Recordings: Dutton, Klassic Haus).

Part Two: Symphony No 10 to Symphony No 21
Part Three: Symphony No 22 to Symphony No 32