Alexander Walker / Novaya Rossiya State Symphony Orchestra

Havergal Brian: Symphonies Nos. 7 and 16; The Tinker's Wedding Overture

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Conductor Alexander Walker has had an unusual career: trained partly in Russia, he has continued to work there often performing British music that, until he came along, had rarely been played there. He has been associated especially with Havergal Brian, for whom any recordings are welcome, and here he delivers a well-chosen pair of symphonies. The Symphony No. 7 in C major of 1948 and the Symphony No. 16 are separated by only a dozen years, but the Symphony No. 7 points back to Brian's large earlier symphonies, and the Symphony No. 16 forward to remarkable concise works Brian wrote in great old age (he was already 84 when he finished it). His works seem spontaneous, and indeed part of their appeal is a sort of impish humor, but they seem to move forward inevitably because of what one gradually realizes are underlying tonal procedures. Sample the Symphony No. 16 in several places. Walker and the New Russia State Symphony Orchestra get the flow of the music, although the smooth string sound cultivated by the orchestra's chief conductor, Yuri Bashmet, is a little at odds with the rather rough-hewn quality of Brian's music. What you get, perhaps, is a Russian reading of Brian, strong on emotion, and this is not a bad thing. The Symphony No. 7 is a comparatively light work, and the opening Tinker's Wedding Overture, incidental music for a comic play by John Millington Synge, is lighter still, almost Haydn-like in spirit. An enjoyable excursion into some little-known music.

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