Few words are needed for what is a magnificent release. Havergal Brian (1876-1972) composed Faust between 1955 and the following year, and, perhaps needless to say, this prolific composer (not least of thirty-two Symphonies) never heard a note. Setting Goethe’s original German into a Prologue and four Acts, Brian writes music that on its own terms is compelling, full of character, suggestion and atmosphere: thrilling and beautifully expressive, imaginative and colourful.
Thanks to Dutton’s handsome presentation, which includes an extensive essay by John Pickard, a synopsis, the German text and an English translation, all that is needed for comprehensive appreciation of this tremendous discovery is supplied.
Recorded over four days (August 27-30, 2019, at Abbey Road Studio One, plus additional production for organ and wind machine last year), engineer Dexter Newman has done a great job: the sound is vivid, dynamic, impactful and crystal-clear.
What is even more remarkable beyond being alerted to a masterpiece, as well as appreciating the first-class technical and presentational means that allows us so to do, is the exceptional performance: the music leaps off the page. I assume these were rehearse-record sessions, yet Martyn Brabbins conducts as if Brian’s version of Faust is a repertoire piece and was captured after a run of performances: each of the singers (click on the link below for complete personnel) is fully immersed in their respective roles, their interactions are made significant, and the ENO choral and orchestral forces are at the top of their game.
In short, this release is musically marvellous, performed heroically, and is beyond reproach presentationally. Dutton Epoch 2CDLX 7385 [2 SACDs].