Thursday, 5 May 2016

Some British Symphonies Celebrating their Half Centenary (1966)

The year 1966 did not have quite as an impressive symphonic head count as the previous year. 1965 saw more than thirteen new works completed or given their first performance. This present half-centenary is notable for the three symphonies by Havergal Brian (1876-1972), who was then aged ‘just’ 90 years. According to the Havergal Brian Society webpage, two are currently available on CD. No.26 has been issued in LP under a pseudonym: it is currently not available on CD. They were not premiered at this time. 
Listeners are lucky in being able to access Benjamin Frankel’s complete symphonic cycle. These were issued during 1996 on the CPO label.
Peter Racine Fricker’s Symphony No.4 was composed over a two year period and was first heard at the Cheltenham Festival on 14 February 1967. It has not been recorded commercially, although it is available on YouTube.
David Blake’s (b.1936) Chamber Symphony is the first orchestral work listed in his on-line catalogue. Although the score has been published, there is no CD available.  This Symphony was a commission for the 1966 York Festival. The Guardian simply noted it as a ‘new work’ with no comment of critique.
Likewise, there is no disc of Jonathan Harvey’s Symphony. In fact, this work is not even mentioned in his ‘catalogue of works’ published by Novello & Co. The score of this work was published in 1966.  It was a re-working of his Three Orchestral Pieces. There is little other information available.

Four other British Symphonies were first heard during 1966. Richard Rodney Bennett's Symphony No.1 (February), Ruth Gipps' Symphony No.3, op.55 (19 March), John McCabe's Symphony No.1 (Elegy) (4 July) and Egon Wellesz's Symphony No.6, op.95 (6 July). All had been completed in the previous year. 

Benjamin Frankel: Symphony No 4, op 44
Queensland Symphony Orchestra/ Werner Andreas Albert (includes Symphony No. 6 and Mephistopheles Serenade and Dance) CPO 999242-2 (1996)

Havergal Brian: Symphony No 25 in A minor
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/John Canarina (1976) [attributed to "Francisco Teatro/San Paulo Symphony Orchestra"] (includes Symphony No. 5) Aries LP 1629

Ukraine State Symphony Orchestra/ Andrew Penny (includes Symphony No. 20 and Fantastic Variations on an Old Rhyme) Naxos 8.572641 (2011) (original CD release: Marco Polo 8.223731 (1995)

Havergal Brian: Symphony No 26 (first performed 13 May 1976) 
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Vernon Handley (1976) [attributed to "John Freedman/Edinburgh Youth Orchestra"] ( includes Symphonies Nos. 13, 15, 17, 20 & 24) Aries LP 3601 (3 LPs)

Havergal Brian: Symphony No 27 in C major  (first performed 9 January 1979)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins (includes Symphonies Nos. 5 and 19 and Festal Dance) Dutton Epoch CDLX 7314 (2015)

Peter Racine Fricker: Symphony No 4 1964-66
No recording

David Blake: Chamber Symphony
No recording

Jonathan Harvey: Symphony
No recording

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