Great review as always from Steve, but a few quick thoughts, after
reviewing this recording for ARG some time ago.
I agree the performance is not great. It especially hurts the scherzo,
a movement as presented here that I really can't assess in terms of
quality. The strongest movement, I think, is the finale. That said,
I think this is one of Brian's weaker symphonies along with the Fourth,
though it's a lot easier to take in than the Fourth.
It's true that Brian has never had his Advocate among major conductors.
Adrian Boult recorded the First, but that's really an aircheck from
Aries--the only one from that series that used the conductor's real name.
Aries, in fact, put out airchecks of most of Brian's symphonies. Some
performances were pretty good, but the sound ranged from sort of adequate
to lousy. Beyond that, Charles Mackerras recorded some Brian on EMI.
Charles Groves on Lyrita. Maybe Vernon Handley. Not sure.
I agree with Steve that Brian was a composer who deserves his "time,"
but I'm not so optimistic that it will come. My guess is that it has
come and gone. Marco Polo began a Brian project. That's where the Naxos
recordings are coming from. The project was never finished, though the
MP recording of the First (partly sponsored by a member of the Grateful
Dead) made a splash for a time. I guess the other recordings just didn't
sell enough. I'd be surprised if there will be another project to replace
or complete it.
Meanwhile, some of the Marco Polo readings are pretty good--especially
of the symphonies after 5. The Lyritas are worth seeking as are the
EMIs. There's a decent Third on Harmonia Mundi, too.
Finally, I played the Festival Fanfare with my brass group a little while
ago. I liked the piece a lot. Very typical of his late style.
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