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Work

Havergal Brian

Havergal Brian Composer

Symphony No.18

Performances: 2
Tracks: 8
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Musicology (work in progress):
  • Symphony No.18
    • Allegro moderato
    • Adagio
    • Allegro e marcato sempre [Part 1]
    • Allegro e marcato sempre [Part 2]
    • Allegro moderato
    • Adagio
    • Allegro e marcato sempre [Part 1]
    • Allegro e marcato sempre [Part 2]
This symphony was an offshoot of the first performance of Brian's immense Gothic Symphony, written in the 1920s but not played until 1961. The conductor of that performance, Brian Fairfax, was the conductor of a small and largely amateur orchestra, the Polyphonic Orchestra, and asked the composer if he had any symphonies modest enough in scoring that his group could play them. After quizzing Fairfax as to the personnel of his orchestra, Brian went home and, unknown to the conductor, wrote a symphony tailor-made for that group. As a result it requires the smallest orchestra of any Brian symphony (mere double woodwinds, for instance) and its part-writing makes some concessions to the players' status. Brian even returns to a rather standard and concise three-movement form (his prior five symphonies had been in complex single-movement forms).

However, the piece in no way compromises in matters of expression. It is a work with Brian's typical driven rhythms and sardonic, even bitter qualities in the outer movements, and a heartfelt elegy in the middle. The first movement is a march in a grim, satiric mood. The finale is also a march, beginning jocularly enough, but also turning dark. The happier mood keeps reappearing, but in the end fails to break through, as the music ends angrily with a brusque fanfare.

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