Havergal Brian

The neglected English composer Havergal Brian was born into a working class family at Dresden in Staffordshire on 29 January 1876. Nearly completely self-taught, he started to become known just before the beginning of the twentieth century through his choral music. His first symphony, the notorious Gothic (1919-27), is one of the longest ever symphonic works, and did considerable harm to his reputation. Initial interest in his orchestral music was not sustained, and he spent much of his life in poverty. A considerable amount of music - tonal, but sometimes with confusing forms - including thirty two symphonies and five operas, is mostly unpublished, and some of it unperformed.

Interest in his music was rekindled in the 1950s, largely due to the efforts of Robert Simpson, and the elderly Brian knew that the BBC would record all his symphonies, but he died (at Shoreham, Sussex, on 28 November 1972) without hearing much of his work.

Further information: havergalbrian.org


A selection of articles about Havergal Brian

Music as a Form of Magic - Larry Sitsky: Late Piano Pieces - Second Series 2022-2023

CD Spotlight. Novel Sounds and Experimentation - Havergal Brian's Symphonies Nos 7 and 16, heard by Gerald Fenech. 'Alexander Walker and his Russian forces give passionately committed performances, highly idiomatic and bursting with excitement.'

CD Spotlight. Impressive Music - Songs by Havergal Brian, heard by Patric Standford. '... equal to the intimacy of the skilfully fashioned miniature.'

CD Spotlight. Searing Intensity - Havergal Brian's 'Gothic' Symphony impresses Robert Anderson

Ensemble. Exuberantly Florid Writing - Mike Wheeler listens to António Teixeira's Te Deum

A Golden Treasury - Havergal Brian on European and American music, read by Patric Standford

CD Spotlight. A Heady Mix - Havergal Brian's Symphonies 4 and 12, reviewed by Paul Sarcich. '... Adrian Leaper marshals his enormous forces well ...'

Four Strings to his Violin - Many strings to his bow ... Howard Smith reports on Marat Bisengaliev's third tour of New Zealand

Will I let this in? - Some thoughts on the music of Havergal Brian, from Aaron Rabushka