Saturday, 18 February 2017

Some British Symphonies Celebrating their Half Centenary (1967)

There were at least ten symphonies composed or completed during 1967. Only two of them have become ‘popular’ in the sense that they have been recorded several times. Malcolm Arnold’s Symphony No.6 has appeared in the three ‘cycles’ of his Symphonies (Chandos, Naxos and Conifer) as well as on an LPO CD. The other work is Roberto Gerhard’s splendid Symphony No.4 ‘New York’ which has appeared on the Chandos edition of his orchestral music, which seems to have been abandoned. It was also included in the Valois Montaigne retrospective of Gerhard’s music.
Unbelievably, Havergal Brian contributed another three symphonies to his catalogue during this year. He had passed the 90 years old mark and was still going strong.  Brian’s Symphonies were not premiered at this time, but had to wait several years.  No.28 was first heard on 7 June 1973; No.29, January 1976 (private play through) and first public performance 17 November 1976; and No.30 was first heard on the radio on 24 September 1976. Brian was to write two more examples of the genre in 1968.
It is unfortunate that Richard Rodney Bennett’s Symphony No.2 (first performed 188 January 1968 in New York) has not been recorded. It is available on YouTube with Andre Previn conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. This is clearly an important work. Bennett’s Symphony No.1 has been issued on LP, but not on CD. The 3rd Symphony was released by Koch in 1996 (KOCH INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS KIC 7341)
Benjamin Frankel has benefited from an imaginative release of all the symphonies and several orchestral works on the CPO label. Listening to the Symphony No 5, op. 46 it is hard to believe that it is such a ‘niche’ work. It may not be a masterpiece, but surely it deserves more than a single recording and occasional live performances.
Oliver Knussen’s Symphony No.1 was popular at the time of its premiere. Unfortunately, the composer chose to withdraw the work. So, there is no recording available.
Neither Arthur Butterworth’s A Moorland Symphony or Wilfred Joseph’s Symphony No 3, op 59 ‘Philadelphia’ for chamber orchestra have survived into the recorded legacy.  I only hope that one day some enterprising record company will issue complete symphonic cycles of these two composers. To be fair, Dutton Epoch and Lyrita have already released several Butterworth’s Symphonies. It is possible that radio broadcasts of the Butterworth, Knussen and Josephs are sitting in an archive. Let us hope they are rediscovered before too long.

Malcolm Arnold: Symphony No.6, op.95 (1967)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley (includes Fantasy on a Theme of John Field, Sweeney Todd Suite and Tam O’Shanter Overture) Conifer Classics 74321-16847-2 (1993)

London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley (includes Philharmonic Concerto, Inn of the Sixth Happiness: Film Suite, Beckus the Dandipratt Overture and Flourish for a 21st Birthday London Philharmonic Records LPO 0013 (2006)

London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox (includes Symphony No.5) Chandos CHAN 9385 (1995)

National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland/Andrew Penny (includes Symphony No.5) Naxos 8.552000 (2001)

Richard Rodney Bennett: Symphony No 2 
No recording

Havergal Brian: Symphony No.28 (1967)
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski [attributed to "Horst Werner/Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra"] (includes Violin Concerto) ARIES LP 1607

New Russia State Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Walker (includes Symphonies Nos. 6, 29 and 31) Naxos 8.573408 (2015)

Havergal Brian: Symphony No. 29 in E-flat major (1967)
New Russia State Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Walker (includes Symphonies Nos. 6, 29 and 31) Naxos 8.573408 (2015)

Havergal Brian: Symphony No. 30 in B flat Minor (1967)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins (includes Symphony No. 10, English Suite No.3 and Concerto for Orchestra) Dutton Epoch CDLX 7267 (2011)

Arthur Butterworth: A Moorland Symphony (Saddleworth Festival, 1967)
No commercial recording

Benjamin Frankel: Symphony No 5, op 46 (1967)
Werner Andreas Albert/Queensland Symphony Orchestra (includes Symphony No. 1 and May Day Overture) CPO 999240-2 (1995)

Roberto Gerhard: Symphony No.4 ‘New York’ (1967)
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Matthias Bamert (includes Pandora Suite) Chandos CHAN 9651 (1998)
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis (includes Violin Concerto) Lyrita SRCD.274 (2008) (original LP release: ARGO ZRG 701) (1972)
Tenerife Symphony Orchestra/Victor Pablo Pérez (includes Symphony No. 2) Valois Montaigne MO782102 (1999) 
Oliver Knussen: Symphony No 1 – 1966-7 (withdrawn)
No Recording

Wilfred Josephs: Symphony No 3, op 59 “Philadelphia” for chamber orchestra
No recording

With thanks to Michael Herman at MusicWeb International for discographical information. 

No comments: