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CD Review

English Symphonies

  • Havergal Brian:
  • Symphony #6 "Sinfonia Tragica"
  • Symphony #16
  • Arnold Cooke: Symphony #3 *
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Myer Fredman
* London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaithe
Lyrita SRCD295 60m ADD
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This Lyrita issue is a highly valuable addition to the English symphonic repertoire. Brian's 32 works in the genre are very sparsely represented and at present, less than half are available for consumption. Listening to Nos. 6 and 16 makes one wonder why Brian is still the victim of so unjust a neglect.

The Sinfonia Tragica dates from 1948, and is fact, a reworking of the prelude to the projected opera, "Deidre of the Sorrows". Scored for standard forces plus a lot of percussion, it is a compressed and prophetic work set within a perfect three-in-one design full of dramatic overtones.

Symphony #16 was written in 1960, and by this time Brian's language had become even more succinct and terse. The symphony runs for just under 18 minutes but the argument is never lacking in power and angst so reminiscent of the early 1960's.

Following hard on the same label's recording of Arnold Cooke's First Symphony, is this third essay by the same composer. Although his melodic and harmonic idiom shared plenty of characteristics with those of Hindemith, Cooke always favoured economy and clarity and his dislike for great theatrical displays is always very evident, especially in his symphonic output. This symphony has many arresting moments and is one of this composer's finest works.

Performances by Fredman and Braithwaithe are predictably authoritative and excellent on all counts. This is another essential addition to the fast growing Lyrita symphonic stable.

Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech