HAVERGAL BRIAN (1876-1972): Symphony No. 1 in D Minor "The Gothic".
Catalogue Number: 12N002
Reference: CDA 67971/2
Description: There will never be a 'definitive' performance of this work - how could there be, of a piece so endlessly, fascinatingly complex and filled with so many levels of musical and emotional detail? - but if you only want one recording of it then this is the one to have. And if you already have some or all of the previous six complete performances in one form or another, you still urgently need this one. In a nutshell, this is the best way to experience the Gothic symphony that has occurred to date. Although Boult had some fine ideas about the piece (increasingly subsumed in the challenges placed on his performers as the performance progressed), and Ole Schmidt led a powerfully compelling and highly dramatic account (which sadly can never be released in CD-quality sound due to technical problems with the original recording), and despite whatever virtues the other performances exhibit, this is the most accurate and true to the text version to date. It is the first professional performance that employs the full complement of forces specified in the score. It is the most meticulously prepared, with many inner details of Brian's extraordinary, dissonant, yet grandly Renaissance-inspired polyphonic web, and of his wonderfully varied orchestration, audible as never before. It is the best recorded, the unique balance problems admirably addressed by the BBC engineers, and with the benefit of a degree of editorial 'polishing' from the final dress rehearsal, the least afflicted by intonation problems and instrumental accidents. The piece is shaped coherently, from beginning to end of its vast span, avoiding any suggestion of the accusations of episodic nature that one might previously have leveled at it on occasion. The two major climaxes of the work (and it says something of the composer's sense of proportion that these stand out as such even in a piece not exactly lacking in dramatic contour) - the end of the Judex movement, the final judgment of a wrathful God, and the apocalyptic outburst that precedes the final desperate prayer for, if not salvation, at least for deliverance from eternal torment, are as terrifying as one might wish, due in no small part to the participation of the full forces that Brian envisioned. From the stormy opening measures, propelling the listener headlong into the work's drama, to the final, unbearably moving, fading choral plea, this recording allows the piece to emerge unmistakably as one of the most impressive edifices in the world of music. 2 CDs. Texts included. Susan Gritton (soprano), Christine Rice (mezzo), Peter Auty (tenor), Alastair Miles (bass), David Goode (organ), The Bach Choir, BBC National Chorus of Wales, Brighton Festival Chorus, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Youth Chorus, Côr Caerdydd, Eltham College Boys' Choir, Huddersfield Choral Society, London Symphony Chorus, Southend Boys' and Girls' Choirs, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Concert Orchestra; Martyn Brabbins.