Havergal Brian Symphony 28 première recording
Posted by Chris Howell on May 28, 2015, 7:44 am
I understand from Michael Cookson's review of the new release of Havergal Brian's symphonies 6, 28, 29 and 31 that Naxos are claiming 28 and 29 as première recordings. |
Re no.28, this claim is no doubt technically correct since I doubt if an unauthorized release strictly counts. Still, it is possible to find on youtube the 1973 world première of this symphony, a BBC studio broadcast with the New Philharmonia under none other than Leopold Stokowski. Given the legendary status of the conductor, one can only say that, if the performance has not been officially released so far, it's high time it was.
Re no.29, nothing shows up on youtube, but the Havergal Brian site shows that the first public performance, by the North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra under Nicholas Smith, was recorded and broadcast by BBC Radio Stoke while the first professional performance was set down by the Philharmonia under Myer Fredman for a BBC studio recording on 28.12.1978, broadcast 12.3.1979. The HB site also has a memo from a percussionist who played in this performance and concludes "from the spirited way the brass played the outer movements of no.29, one would think the work had been in their repertoire for months". So maybe this would be worth retrieving too?
Around this same time, and for broadcast on the same day, the Philharmonia set down no.31 under Sir Charles Mackerras, apparently the conductor's first encounter with Brian. One supposes that the performance was superceded by his own 1987 commercial recording.
Incidentally, youtube also yields up the 1966 première performance of no.6, yet another BBC studio recording, this time by the Royal Opera House Orchestra under Douglas Robinson. So it is not entirely true that earlier Brian performances were by youth and/or scratch orchestras. However, early performances seem to have been almost exclusively BBC studio recordings and it significant, in a negative sort of way, that none of these orchestras, having taken the trouble to learn and rehearse the music under respected conductors, ever thought to slip even one of the shorter symphonies into their public concert seasons.