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Havergal Brian

Selected Discography and Recommended Listening

A number of key recordings of Brian's music have been deleted; including the complete music for piano (performed by Peter Hill; originally on Cameo Classics); and the following symphonies:

  • Nos 6 (1948) and 16 (1960) - London Phil O/Myer Fredman (on Lyrita)
  • Nos 8 (1949) and 9 (1951) - Royal Liverpool Phil O/Sir Charles Groves (on EMI)
  • Nos 10 (1954) and 21 (1963) - Leicestershire Schools SO/James Loughran (Sym 10); Eric Pinkett (Sym 21) (last available on Unicorn(-Kanchana) (Sym 10 was a Unicorn recording; Sym 21 was originally for CBS))

It's hoped that these recordings will eventually be rereleased on CD.

The following discs of music by Brian are presently available:

"Gothic" Symphony (Symphony 1; 1919-1927) - Marco Polo 8.223280/1 (2CDs)
Eva Jenisova (sop), Dagmar Peckova (alto), Vladimir Dolezal (ten), Peter Mikulas (bass); Slovak Phil Choir, Slovak National Opera Chorus, Slovak Folk Ensemble Chorus, Bratislava City Choir, Lucnica Choir, Bratislava Childrens' Choir, Youth 'Echo' Choir; Czecho-Slovak Radio SO (Bratislava) and Slovak Phil O/Ondrej Lenard

Symphony 3 (1931-32) - Hyperion CDA66334
Andrew Ball, Julian Jacobsen (pianos); BBC SO/Lionel Friend

Symphonies 4 ("Das Siegeslied") (1932-33) and 12 (1957) - Marco Polo 8.223447
Jana Valaskova (sop); Slovak Philharmonic Choir, Slovak National Opera Chorus, Brno Phil Choir, Youth 'Echo' Choir, Mixed 'Cantus' Choir; Czecho-Slovak Radio SO (Bratislava) [augmented]/Adrian Leaper

Symphonies 7 (1948) and 31 (1968); Comedy Overture: The Tinker's Wedding (1948) - EMI CDM 7647172
Royal Liverpool Phil O/Sir Charles Mackerras

Symphonies 17 (1960-61) and 32 (1968); Tone Poem: In Memoriam (1910); Festal Dance (1908) - Marco Polo 8.223481
National SO of Ireland/Adrian Leaper

Violin Concerto; Symphony 18 (1961); Comedy Overture: The Jolly Miller - Marco Polo 8.223479
Marat Bisengaliev (violin); BBC Scottish SO/Lionel Friend

Symphonies 20 (1962) and 25 (1966); Fantastic Variations on an Old Rhyme (1908) - Marco Polo 8.223731
Ukraine State SO/Andrew Penny

Opera: The Tigers (1916-18; orch. 1918-29): complete symphonic movements included on 'Masters of the English Musical Renaissance' (with works by Hubert Parry and John Foulds) - Forlane UCD 16724/25 (2CDs)
Luxembourg Radio SO/Leopold Hager.

Fantastic Variations on an Old Rhyme, Festal Dance, In Memoriam, Two herrick Songs Requiem for the Rose, The Hag (1911), Doctor Merryheart, English Suite No.1 (1899, 1903-04), Burlesque Variations on an Original Theme (1903), Overture For Valour (1902, rev.1906) - Campion RR2CD 1331/2 (2CDs)
Saint Nicholas Singers, City of Hull Youth SO/Geoffrey Heald-Smith

A number of "bootleg" recordings (all deriving from BBC broadcasts) have also been released in the U.S. on the Aries label.

Recommended Listening

To sample Brian's music, it's best to go with the obvious: the "Gothic" Symphony and the Violin Concerto are examples of his musical technique at its awesome best. Performances are superb; and the liner notes (by Malcolm MacDonald) offer a valuable introduction to Brian's musical thought.

The complete (six in all) symphonic movements from Brian's opera "The Tigers" are also well worth a listen… the "Symphonic Variations" on a music-hall ditty "Has Anyone Here Seen Kelly?" in particular is an intoxicating delight. The BBC has recorded a broadcast version of the entire opera; but this has never been commercially released… admirers of Brian's music in Britain speak highly not just of the music but also the performance (conducted by Lionel Friend).

"Das Siegeslied" and the Campion set are less easy to recommend. The symphony has moments of shattering power; but unlike the "Gothic" symphony, it always gives the impression that it's going "over the top". Worth listening to AFTER you've heard Brian's better works. The Campion set deals exclusively with works written before the Great War… unfortunately, "early" does not mean "easy" in this case; and the student performers struggle with the demands of Brian's writing.

Copyright © Robert Clements, 1996.