The prolific British composer Havergal Brian wrote 32 symphonies. His last was completed in 1968 when he was 92. Just before completing his Symphony No. 32, perhaps as insurance in case he died before finishing it, Brian wrote a shorter work as kind of coda or capstone to his output. He gave it a Latin title, “Ave atque Vale” – “hail and farewell” in English.
In a letter to Robert Simpson, a fellow composer and friend, Brian said he didn’t intend this work as any kind of confession or comment on his life or music, but a purely abstract “last word” from him as a composer.
“Ave atque Vale” received its premiere performance on today’s date in 1973, some six months after Brian’s death, in a studio recording by the London Philharmonic intended for a BBC broadcast that never materialized.
Brian’s music was seldom performed during his lifetime. He enjoyed some initial success in the early years of the 20th century, and a revival of interest in the 1950s and 60s, but since then his late Romantic, restless and often melancholic music, a quirky blend of Elgar and Mahler, is heard most often via recordings sponsored by the Havergal Brian Society.
Music Played in Today's Program
Havergal Brian (1876 - 1972)Ave atque ValeBBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Garry Walker, cond.Toccata Classics 110
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