Phonographic Realisations of the Gothic Symphony by Havergal Brian

Oskar Łapeta


Havergal Brian’s Symphony No. 1 in D minor (1919–1927), known as Gothic Symphony, is possibly one of the most demanding and difficult pieces in symphonic repertoire, the largest-scale symphony ever written, outdoing the most extreme demands of Mahler, Strauss and Schönberg. After the purely instrumental part 1, part 2 is a gigantic setting of Te Deum, inspired by the mighty Gothic cathedrals. This outstanding work has been performed only six times since its premiere in 1961, and has been recorded in studio only once. There are three existing phonographic realisations of this work. Two of them are live recordings made in England. The first of them comes from 1966, when the Symphony was recorded under the direction of Adrian Boult (it was released by the Testament label under catalogue number SBT2 1454) and the second one was made in 2011 under the baton of Martyn Brabbins (it was released in the same year under catalogue number CDA67971/2). The third recording, but the first one that has been available internationally, was made in Bratislava in 1989 under Ondrej Lenárd (it was first released by Marco Polo label in 1990, and later published by Naxos in 2004 under catalogue number 8.557418-19). Made with different orchestras and choirs, under very different sonic circumstances, they also differ considerably within interpretative ideas represented by conductors. They show Brian’s work in different ways, illuminating this composition. Sadly, despite their efforts, the composer’s output is still perceived as peripheral curiosity for connoisseurs.

Słowa kluczowe: Havergal Brian, Gothic Symphony, Adrian Boult, Martyn Brabbins, Ondrej Lenárd

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