Brian: Songs, Legend
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Havergal Brian: Songs for baritone and piano, Legend for violin and piano

The Soul of Steel

Catalogue Number: TOCC0005
EAN: 5060113440051
Release Date: 4 March 2005
Duration: 56:38

Settings of Blake, Shakespeare and other English poets, for baritone and piano
Legend, for violin and piano

Brian Rayner Cook, baritone
Roger Vignoles, piano
Stephen Levine, violin
Peter Lawson, piano

Havergal Brian (1876–1972) is renowned as the composer of 32 powerful symphonies (then the largest symphonic cycle since Haydn), 21 of them composed after his 80th birthday; his First Symphony, The Gothic, is reputed to be the largest ever composed. But in the first part of his career Brian was also active on a smaller scale, his songs attracting the advocacy of singers as prominent as John McCormack and John Coates. The range of emotion in these songs is nonetheless vast, from folky innocence via Shakespearean irony to deep tragedy. Brian Rayner Cook’s performances can be taken as authoritative: he studied the songs with the composer. The CD is completed by the Legend for violin and piano, Brian’s only surviving piece of chamber music.

Booklet texts   (PDF)

Track Listing, MP3 Downloads and Streaming Samples

Track No. Track Title / Details Duration Sample Add to Cart
1-17 Songs for baritone and piano (c. 1906-21)

Havergal Brian, composer
Brian Rayner Cook, baritone
Roger Vignoles, piano

(first digital recording)
1 When Icicles Hang by the Wall 2:11 play
2 Take, O Take Those Lips Away 1:04 play
3 Sorrow Song 3:52 play
4 The Message 2:22 play
5 Farewell 4:42 play
6 Care-Charmer Sleep 4:42 play
7 Since Love is Dead 2:50 play
8 The Soul of Steel 4:52 play
9 Why Dost Thou Wound and Break My Heart? 2:54 play
10 On Parting 2:11 play
11 Lady Ellayne 1:51 play
12 Renunciation 3:34 play
13 Love is a Merry Game 1:45 play
14 Piping Down the Valleys Wild 2:04 play
15 The Chimney Sweeper 2:56 play
16 The Land of Dreams 4:01 play
17 The Defiled Sanctuary 3:00 play
18 Legend, for violin and piano (c. 1919)

Havergal Brian, composer
Stephen Levine, violin
Peter Lawson, piano

(first digital recording)
5:47 play


Havergal Brian

Havergal Brian, composer

Brian Rayner Cook

Brian Rayner Cook, baritone
[credit: Richard Armitage]

Roger Vignoles

Roger Vignoles, piano
[credit: Matthew Ford]

Stephen Levine

Stephen Levine, violin

Peter Lawson

Peter Lawson, piano


This collection of songs plus one work for violin and piano from Havergal Brian's early period show an original mind at work. Superior and idiomatic performances, clear sound.

BBC Music Magazine March 2006

Approximately one quarter of Havergal Brian's song output features on this superbly remastered issue, sung vividly in the Wigmore Hall by Brian Rayner Cook, alive to all the moods and colours of this unfamiliar repertoire, accompanied to perfection by Roger Vignoles. […] The recordings still sound fresh and with the bonus of Stephen Levine and Peter Lawson's moving rendition of Brian's sole extant piece of chamber music, Legend […] this disc is warmly recommended.

Guy Rickards Gramophone March 2006

[…] The sound in the songs is big and unapologetic. […] The notes are exemplary as you would expect from one of the two leading Brian scholars, Malcolm Macdonald. […] The texts are printed in full. The songs are all well-rounded, well recorded and project a grand nobility aided invaluably by Brian Rayner Cook’s distinctive baritone and the sensitive and, when called for, larger than life pianism of Roger Vignoles. This disc will be widely welcomed. The release on CD of these outstanding performances of intriguing and impressive music should find ready takers in the burgeoning market for British song and for the music of Havergal Brian.

Rob Barnett MusicWeb International October 2005

Seventeen songs

[…] deeply impressed […] Brian was no mean song writer […]

It is not just the quality of each individual song which impresses, although some at least are quite clearly short masterpieces in their own right. It is also the breadth of Brian’s imaginative and expressive range. As Malcolm MacDonald’s admirable sleeve note indicates, most of the songs concern themselves with one or more of Brian’s ‘three great themes—love, hate & death’, but within those central preoccupations he proves himself capable of almost infinite variety. He embraces with equal aplomb the teasing humour of Lady Ellayne, the alternating ardour and tenderness of Why Dost thou wound and break my heart, the innocent happiness of Piping down the valleys wild, the almost tragic intensity of Sorrow song, the uncompromising defiance of The soul of steel, the horrified repugnance of The defiled sanctuary and much else besides. Rather a lot may be asked of the performers, but in terms of the intended effect Brian hardly puts a foot wrong. The standard is remarkably consistent with only a growing awareness of harmonic and other technical possibilities, and the general refinement of an already prodigious talent, to mark out the later songs from the very earliest. On this evidence Brian merits serious consideration alongside such major English song writers as Purcell, Dowland, Vaughan Williams and Britten.

The performances impress no less than the songs themselves. Brian Rayner Cook has clearly given much thought to his interpretations and scarcely a shade of meaning or a nuance of feeling escapes him. His technique is equal to all Brian’s demands, strain showing only where Brian quite clearly intended it should. Roger Vignoles handling of the substantial and far from easy piano parts—one can scarcely call them mere accompaniments—is equally fine. It adds considerably to the effect of the performances as a whole.

[…] the sound is commendably full, clear and lifelike. The piano tone, often a weakness in song records, is particularly well reproduced. […]

Godfrey Berry Havergal Brian Society 1983


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