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<<  -- 2 --  Aaron J Rabushka    WILL I LET THIS IN?


On to the symphonies! For the time being let's look past the first four with their intimidating time scales and floor plans and also past No 5 with its vocal obbligato. When we consider the symphonies from No 6 onward we have a group of short- to moderate-length works with instrumentations that (give or take a few percussion players) fit comfortably within those of such concert staples as The Planets, Daphnis & Chloé, and the Roman Triptych.

If I had to pick one Brian symphony with which to welcome new audiences to the fold it would be No 16. Its introductory searching woodwind phrases are perfect to guide new listeners into an unfamiliar world and make them comfortable with what follows, which in the case of No 16 is a splendidly accomplished journey through both quiet and exuberant soundscapes. In short it intelligibly promises great things and convincingly delivers them all. Unfamiliar listeners would probably also feel comfortable walking in to symphonies Nos 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 21, and 31.

For those inclined toward dramatic epics I would suggest No 14 as it maintains its coherence and power through to its stunning climax and conclusion more convincingly that does either No 7 (lots of good ideas, but do they hold together?) or No 8 (whose focus diffuses as the work goes on). For a gruff Brian symphony I would suggest No 12 whose opening glockenspiel soliloquy serves as an understandable if exotic on-ramp to the sternness that follows. And for sensational promotional hooks No 31 has the advantage of being one of the last works of a man over the age of ninety to go with its easy-to-follow expressive progress.

It's quite possible that No 18, with its small 'community orchestra' instrumentation may become the Mahler 4 ( i e, the least expensive to produce) of the Brian Cycle. That being said it is likely to be befuddling to a newcomer to the fold -- for all the pleasures it may yield up to experienced Brianites a new listener would most likely feel as if he were walking into the middle of an arcane conversation and not quite getting the hang of what was going on. I also get this feeling from Symphonies Nos 9, 10, 20, 23 (whose tone is outright forbidding), 24 (only mildly befuddling), 25, 26, 28, and 32, as well as from the Violin Concerto.

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Copyright © 26 January 2003 Aaron J Rabushka, Fort Worth, Texas, USA


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