Brian: Symphonies Nos 22, 23 & 24

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COMPOSERS: Havergal Brian
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Brian: Symphonies Nos 22, 23 & 24
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 22, 23 & 24; English Suite No. 1, Op. 12
PERFORMER: New Russia State Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Walker
CATALOGUE NO: 8572833

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To have composed 27 symphonies between the ages of 76 and 92 is an extraordinary achievement in itself. Each of these three strikingly short Symphonies (the longest is under 17 minutes) has remarkable moments – as when No. 22’s dogged progress gives way to a hauntingly scored episode for solo violin, muted trumpets and woodwind. And No. 23 finds generous space for Brian’s lyrical, elegiac streak. But the most successful statement here is the much younger composer’s English Suite No. 1, conducted at the Proms by Henry Wood in 1907. These six scenes of life in and around Brian’s native Staffordshire include an ‘Interlude’ depicting, with ear-mesmerising virtuosity, a distant view of The Wrekin in Shropshire (see p109). Alexander Walker secures fine playing by this unfamiliar orchestra whose brass section, pleasingly, avoids the excessive vibrato of previous Russian generations.

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Malcolm Hayes