Choc de Classica
Let’s start by saying this is not a “complete” collection of Havergal Brian’s symphonies in the true sense of the word, meaning a complete collection in which all symphonies are recorded by the same orchestra, with the same conductor over a more-or-less-precise period of time. However Naxos can boast about being able to offer all thirty-two of this unique composer’s symphonies, the oldest recordings dating back twenty years and just a few months for the most recent ones. It’s also worth mentioning that several of these symphonies had never been recorded before, further highlighting the rarity of this collection. The first one, Gothic − started in 1919 and only completed in 1927 − is highly majestic, with an orchestra of 210 performers and a choir that would need to exceed 500 people to be heard over the 17 percussionists, 68 brass and 32 woodwinds of the ensemble. Lasting almost two hours in total it is one of the most imposing of the entire repertoire. Quickly however Brian had to make amends and move towards more reasonable formats, with the vast majority lasting around 20 minutes, and the shortest – the aptly named 22nd, Sinfonia brevis from 1965 – doesn’t exceed nine minutes. In this complete collection, the listener will find everything and its opposite, big surprises, others more staggering or odd, never radical, but Havergal Brian will undeniable move you, with a personal language that can’t quite be categorised, neither modern nor old, but stubbornly Havergalbrianian. In addition to his symphonies, some albums also feature concertos, overtures and isolated orchestral pieces that offer a different way to approach the work of this unique character.