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John Quinn
MusicWeb International, June 2019

This is a significant disc—and not just because it completes the Brian symphony discography. The music is convincingly played by the New Russia State Symphony Orchestra and Alexander Walker and they’ve been well recorded too. © 2019 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Classical Ear, June 2019

Alexander Walker’s survey of Havergal Brian’s symphonies with the New Russia State Symphony Orchestra is shaping up to be an invaluable series. © 2019 Classical Ear

Ralph Graves
WTJU, September 2018

Symphony No. 26 from 1966 condenses the symphonic form from four movements to three. Brian pushes the limits of tonality with this work. And while it’s highly chromatic, the lyrism that’s the heart of Brian’s style still shines through.

The New Russia State Symphony Orchestra has a fine sound in these recordings. Alexander Walker knows what he’s about. Each symphony has its own well-defined narrative flow.

Even if you’re not especially interested in British music, these works are worth a listen. © 2018 WTJU  Read complete review

Phillip Scott
Fanfare, March 2018

Walker’s Russian musicians show a firm understanding of the composer’s style. They relish Brian’s lugubrious joyfulness… © 2018 Fanfare Read complete review

Don O’Connor
American Record Guide, March 2018

As with their previous Brian performances for Naxos, this Russian orchestra delivers an excellent rendition of his brawny, bristling style. Walker’s interpretations show their usual understanding of Brian’s maverick logic. © 2018 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Richard Whitehouse, February 2018

This is a major appraisal of three contrasting Brian symphonies, grippingly conveyed by an orchestra which now sounds audibly at ease with this composer’s recalcitrant idiom.

Is it recommended?

Yes, not least when the recorded sound is arguably the best yet secured from this source, and John Pickard’s booklet notes offer a wealth of informed observation. © 2018 Read complete review

Gary Higginson
MusicWeb International, January 2018

I will hopefully one day ask Alexander Walker what he thinks about form in Brian symphonies. As you listen it can seem that you are moving from one incident to the next, such is the fecundity of Brian’s imagination. The militaristic opening of the 8th Symphony is immediately subsumed by an unrelated pianissimo. Elsewhere a passage for clarinet and harp is immediately followed by a great brass fanfare, etc.

What Walker achieves it seems to me…is to convey the overall sense of structure even if it appears wayward and gives to the music a sense of direction. Walker also must have had more rehearsal time than earlier conductors because the New Russia State Orchestra for whom, until recently Havergal Brian must have been a total mystery, are playing their hearts out for him. © 2018 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, December 2017

Maestro Walker once again elicits superb performances from the NRSSO, whose members distinguish themselves in the many solos and small instrumental groupings called for in these robust works.

Made last year in Studio 5 of the Russian State TV & Radio Company, Moscow, the recordings are dynamic, and successfully capture the considerable forces required. Accordingly, they present a substantial soundstage in an enriching venue.

The instrumental timbre is characterized by dazzling highs and a commanding midrange. A preponderance of percussion engenders an impressive, transient bass that goes down to rock bottom. Audiophiles will find this a rigorous test of highend equipment. © 2017 Classical Lost and Found Read complete review

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, November 2017

An Odyssean feat is now complete but more to the point this vividly recorded and performed disc of symphonies brings three aspects of Havergal Brian’s disorientatingly glorious world to continuing life. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Michael Johnson, November 2017

When listening to this CD, I would advise not to take it in all at once and to start with Symphony N° 26 (composed in 1966) which leaves more of a vivid initial impression than the other two. It begins (Allegro risoluto) abruptly as if in mid-phrase, but once again, there is “a series of episodes with no particular sense of direction.” Aggressive outbursts give way to sections worthy of Malcolm Arnold or the like. One section labelled Giocoso is very much Brian’s own version of “playful.” It pulls itself together toward a recognizable finish.

Since there is as yet no performance tradition for Havergal Brian, one really can’t compare this recording with any other (as one can with, say, Mahler or Shostakovich.) It seems well-recorded by a fully professional orchestra. If some of the sounds are “odd”, that is what Brian wrote. His instrumental combinations can be unusual. Alexander Walker shows all evidence of command of the idiom. © 2017 Read complete review

Guy Rickards
Gramophone, November 2017

Alexander Walker’s track record in Brian—particularly late Brian—is almost second to none, as with this disc his tally runs to 10 symphonies plus the First English Suite; only Martyn Brabbins has recorded more orchestral Brian. Walker’s reading of the Eighth—one of Brian’s very finest—is confident and controlled. The players of the New Russia State Symphony Orchestra sound quite at home with Brian’s very individual idiom and respond to the dark, tragic atmosphere of this freewheeling single movement with its violent outbursts and pair of virtuoso passacaglias. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Records International, November 2017

This is among Brian’s finest and most innovative works, full of structural novelty and astonishing scoring, and as with any great symphony alternative interpretations are never redundant, fully to explore the work’s riches. © 2017 Records International Read complete review

Lynn René Bayley
The Art Music Lounge, October 2017

This new recording by the excellent conductor Alexander Walker may go a long way towards restoring Brian’s reputation and, perhaps, give a nudge towards more public performances of his music.

…a splendid disc! © 2017 The Art Music Lounge Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2017

The life story of Havergal Brian, is too sad to comprehend, so totally possessed of his destiny as a composer, he took any work offered that gave him time to write. Born in 1876, the year Brahms completed his first symphony, Brian was still composing aged ninety-six, though by then he was so destitute that friends bought him manuscript paper and a radio on which he could hear broadcasts of his symphonies. Strangely he did not start his symphonic cycle of thirty-two works until he was fifty-one, and when that came it was the huge Gothic Symphony, a score calling for immense forces that exceeded any previously envisaged. Largely self-taught by reading miniature scores, he did enjoy initial success before the first World War, though by 1918 the musical world had stylistically moved on and he was forgotten. That did not stop him writing six operas, of which the satirical The Tigers was a masterpiece, and a superb violin concerto. Sadly, the British establishment and the record industry did not support him in any way whatsoever, but painted a picture of an eccentric, and it was left to the Hong Kong based Marco Polo label, using Slavonic forces, to eventually place the Gothic on disc. That has now been transferred to Naxos, a label that has done more than most to popularise his works. So it is appropriate they should issue his Twenty-Sixth, to bring completion of the commercial recording of his symphonies. Part of Brian’s ‘problem’ was the fluctuating shape and length of his symphonies, the Eighth being in one continuous movement in several sections. Completed in 1949, it is often quirky in content, imaginatively scored for a conventionally sized orchestra, and lasts for around twenty-five minutes. By the time he came to the completion of the Twenty-first in 1963, his style had become familiar to those who knew his works and totally unlike any other. It is one of the most attractive and forceful of the whole cycle, and makes a perfect starting point for anyone coming to his music. He never lived to hear his short three-movement Twenty-Sixth performed, but it is one of his more abstract scores. I confess to being addicted to Brian’s music, and would place these Russian recordings, conducted by Alexander Walker, as among the most persuasive. The recorded sound is of very good quality. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

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