Last edited by Bryn; 19-07-11 at 19:37. Reason: Punctuation.
Rather positive review from Geoff Brown in the Times, four stars. Murdoch is probably too busy to notice me promoting one his papers but defying its paywall...
As the Albert Hall burst its sides with two merged orchestras, 17 percussionists, four auxiliary bands and more than 800 voices climbing up toward the dome, it was hard to decide which was the more extraordinary: the effort that Havergal Brian first put into composing his monster Gothic Symphony in the 1920s, or the BBC’s effort in reviving this legendary creation.
In both cases there’s no doubt that the effort was worth it. You can debate whether Brian, the isolated, awkward cuss of 20th-century British music, should have spread his ambition over 110 minutes — minutes that are often disjointed or thick with polyphonic uproar. But those nocturnal labours through the 1920s, writing under a green-shaded table-lamp, still gave us something vital and unique.
For this is a British work of such swirling fantasy, singular textures and heaving emotions that by the end you feel as if the top of your head has been blown apart. That was certainly the impression left on Sunday by the logistically immaculate and resonant account fearlessly conducted by Martyn Brabbins.
This was the sixth complete mounting of the score since its belated premiere in 1961 and must have been Britain’s best-prepared performance, certainly its most vigorously sung. Phil Spector’s wall of sound had nothing on Brabbins’s as choir upon choir pitched into jaunty jubilation or joined in reflective multipart tapestries, sometimes suggesting mock-Palestrina.
In moments of dramatic uproar Verdi and Berlioz were invoked; brass and timpanists sprayed us with bullets; a xylophone went haywire; harps and solo violin went folksy. In the midst, Susan Gritton’s soprano and Peter Auty’s tenor led the way through Brian’s floridly expressive solo lines in the epic setting of the Te Deum, an extraordinary 75-minute kaleidoscope of exultation and despair.
Where did this work come from? What does it mean? It can only be understood, I think, as a tortured response to the Great War, as a vast edifice constructed in memory of civilisation’s past and in outrage and fear over its future. Brabbins, backed by his batallions, made Brian’s shock and awe triumphantly tangible. I still wish that the symphony were shorter, but this was definitely a night to remember.
Have the offerings on the small screen degenerated to such a degree since your era at the BBC, or didn't you have much time for what you saw when the programmes you worked on were broadcast? A bit like a musician not wanting to listen to his commercial recordings, perhaps? I only ask (with some trepidation) because your comment didn't sound wholly tongue-in-cheek.Originally Posted by french frank
Watching the Gothic Symphony from the RAH on television would be totally pointless... all rounded arches.
I’ve only heard this symphony all the way through twice. In 2002 and 2003. It was so long that when I first heard it in Maidstone on a bus by the time I got to Hastings it was still going! But the huge singing part 2 puts me off completely.
I still play the first 3 mvts today. I find them enjoyable, but it doesn’t lodge in the memory. Very episodic. Like the other symphonies like no.7 and no.3.
I’ve heard no.31. Its only 13 minutes! (I’m not joking kids!)
Anyway, didn’t hear this but I did hear the pre-talk. I’m in 2 minds whether to play it here in the office this afternoon. I have the personal radio in case it drives the boss next door mad!
I enjoyed the performance immensely. This was helped by the fact that in the previous fortnight I had done a lot of listening to recordings of previous performances and reading of the ideas of Malcolm McDonald, Harold Truscott and Paul Rapoport so that the various landmarks of the piece were familiar to me. As has been said by others, actually being present allowed previously inaudible details to be heard and the piece seemed to hang together much more coherently than I have ever heard before.
There was a real sense of occasion around the Royal Albert Hall and its surroundings. The massed ranks of instrumentalists and singers was an amazing sight and Martyn Brabbins certainly did an incredible job in keeping them all under control (and also the audience - he kept them completely silent for a full 20 seconds after the last note had faded into nothing).
Does anyone know if there are any photographs of the performance posted anywhere on the internet?
There are various photos on the BBC Proms Facebook page and Twitter feed. In previous years, galleries have also been a feature of the main Proms webpage
Like parry, whose works have been promoted recently, with this broadcast, would HB's music have a few more devotees?
Music is in the air all around you. You just take of it as much as you want(Sir Edward Elgar)
I was in the hall, and have read and agreed with many doubtless mutually contradictory responses. Even the clarinet tune manages to be both groovy and haunting at the same time, quite an accomplishment.
It is an 'all of the above' sort of piece: rather mad, overlong, and disjointed but also with lovely moments and a real momentum which compels attention. As a result, my tortured description would be: a flawed work of no little genius!
Its certainly not hard to find imperfections in the work and many have quite enjoyed a poke or two.
But what en experience !
Im not sure how anyone else is feeling ... Im finding it quite difficult to get excited about the relatively standard
fayre heard at the Proms since, even a supposedly superlative account of the Rite of Spring.