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Brian & Malipiero Symphonies

Havergal Brian (1876–1972)

Festal Dance
In Memoriam
Symphony No. 32
Symphony No. 17

RTE National Symphony Orchestra/Adrian Leaper

Naxos 8.572020

Gian Francesco Malipiero (1883-1973)

Sinfonia dello zodiaco
Symphony No. 9 'dell’ahimè'
Symphony No. 10 'Atropo

Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Antonio de Almeida

Naxos 8.570882


Two symphonies by each of these long lived contemporaries who have been championed by Naxos in budget priced re-issues from the Marco Polo label ( - - launched in 1982, the first label devoted to world premiere recordings mostly of repertoire from the second half of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century - - covered unknown works by well-known composers and the most important works of little-known or forgotten composers.).

Brian held that "the greatest modern composers have shown the greatest talent in continuous contrapuntal writing" (1932) and Malipiero certainly fills that bill.

His Zodiac symphony (1951) which traverses the seasons in twelve movements - during a period when he avoided numbering his symphonies for supersitious reasons - is delightfully rich and resourceful, and is longer than his last two put together. No 9 has a hidden programme denoted by its subtitle "ahimè". No 10, his very last (1967) is a memorial to his close friend, conductor Hermann Scherchen; the notes writer (J CG Waterhouse) puzzles at its athematicism and "stylistic inconsistencies", and both writers (Malcolm MacDonald for Brian) are at pains to analyse the symphonies structurally, but I wonder how many listeners are much concerned with that?

Brian's of 1961 and 1968 (his last, at 92) are concentrated and pungent in expression, his musical personality evident within a few bars. Sad that his reputation had to await posthumous recordings for full evaluation.

Both these are valuable discs which make for absorbing listening and will prompt listeners to explore others of these fine composers' oeuvres.

Recommended to purchase this time round if you don't already have them?

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also Havergal Brian (for Gothic Symphony etc)

Malipiero orchestral music

Symphonic Fragments from Tre Commedie Goldoniane
La Cimarosiana

Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Christian Benda

Naxos 8.570883

This volume of Naxos' extended Malipiero series is recommended only to Malipiero completists.


The workings up of material by Gabrieli and Cimarosa for modern orchestra are reminders of Malipiero's pioneering work on Montevedi. But they are no longer viable for concert use, having been completely overtaken by the Historically Informed Performance practice of the burdgeoning early music movement.


Most interesting - an disturbing - is the account (David Gallagher drawing on John C G Waterhouse) of Malipiero's deplorable political record in Fascist Italy; wheedling Mussolini personally himself, despising "mediocrities" and deriding refugees who had barely escaped slaughter as "martyrs who lived in safety in Dollar Paradise" - ugh !