Première recordings of Havergal Brian Symphonies 5 and 27
Posted by Chris Howell on June 19, 2015, 7:47 am
Following the recent discussion as to whether the recent Naxos recording of Havergal Brian's Symphonies 28 and 31 were quite the world premières they were claimed to be, I see that John Quinn has more cautiously described the new Dutton disc of nos. 5, 19 and 27 as "commercial premières". |
No doubt about that, I am sure, but his dim memories of a 1976 performance under Stanley Pope with Brian Rayner-Cook as soloist need not have remained so dim since this performance can be heard on YouTube, in sound that's pretty good for what it is (the timbre of the voice comes over well).
I'm not sure if a bootleg LP can be called a commercial première (technically yes, since the producer got money for the copies he sold), but the notorious Aries series had a performance of this symphony purporting to be by the San Paulo SO under Francisco Teatro (LP-1629). No doubt it was actually the Pope performance.
Likewise, a 1979 BBC performance of no.27 by Sir Charles Mackerras and the Philharmonia can be heard on YouTube in quite decent sound.
No such traces of no.19, which had a broadcast in 1976 by the BBC Scottish SO under John Canarina, though it seems unlikely that copies did not circulate among aficionados.
It needs to be said that, grateful though one is to the people who make their buried treasures available, any post-1962 recording appearing on YouTube is illegal (though this might depend on where the poster lives), I'm not even sure how legal it is to listen to it (in Europe) and a critic who actually recommended readers to hear the works this way in preference to buying the Dutton issue (not that I imagine for a moment that there would be any reason for making such a recommendation) might be in an awkward position.
Nevertheless, given the likelihood that the BBC's own tapes were wiped clean years ago, it is nice to know that decent copies have survived and it would be good to think that they might appear officially one day. While the future of these works lies in present-day conductors such as Brabbins taking them up, and companies such as Dutton and Naxos recording them, performances under earlier believers in the cause such as Pope and Mackerras have an obvious historical place.