Reward for rediscovery of Brian’s lost scores

press coverage

The press speaks From Ariel No 159 1.2.78 [Ariel is the BBC staff magazine] BRIAN IN THE NEWS
£500 reward for composer’s lost work. A reward of £500 is offered to solve the mystery of the lost scores of the composer Havergal Brian. One missing score, that of the giant cantata Prometheus unbound, is valued above all else. And research shows it could be lying forgotten somewhere in the BBC. For the person able to uncover the work, the Havergal Brian Society is prepared to hand over £500 reward. This is the entire sum the society has been offered anonymously for the recovery of Havergal Brian works. Prometheus unbound was composed betweeen 1937 and 1944 and the English composer is said to have considered it his masterpiece.

Some believe it to he conceived for forces even larger than these employed in Brian’s most famous work, Gothic Symphony, dubbed the largest symphony ever written. David Brown, secretary of the Brian Society, tells me: "There seems to be some grounds for thinking that Prometheus Unbound is even now lying undisturbed on BBC premises. Documentary evidence indicates that it was held within the Corporation during part of the lifetime. We are most anxious to hear from anyone who may know something of this score’s whereabouts, and we consider it of sufficient importance to be willing to pay the full reward sum of £500 to anyone who can give verifiable proof of this". The score is said to be bound in two very large green coloured volumes. Havergal Brian died in 1972 at the age of 96. It is known that he destroyed a large quantity of his early work, but an unknown number of short scores and full scores are missing.

There have been developments "from the other side" in the extraordinary affair of the lost Havergal Brian score_, Prometheus unbound_. I revealed in the last issue of Ariel that the Havergal Brian Society is offering £500 reward to anyone who can find the missing masterpiece. It is thought the work may be lying forgotten on a BBC shelf. Havergal Brian died six years ago at the age of 96. But Mrs Rosemary Brown of Wimbledon claims she saw the composer in her kitchen just two years ago - when he complained that the BBC had lost his masterpiece! Mrs Brown enjoys a reputation for contacting dead composers. She claims that many of them have dictated new work to her. Peter Dorling, TV Duty Editor now in charge of the Television News training where he "discovered" the amazing Mrs Brown for television and produced a documentary on her. He has kept in touch ever since. Rosemary Brown told Peter Dorling ahout her visit from Havergal Brian two years ago.

Said Peter "She told me this very elderly, craggy looking gentleman appeared in her kitchen. He said he was Havergal Brian and he was very cross because the BBC had lost his most important work, Prometheus Unbound. He told her it was in a north facing room on the fourth floor of Broacasting House among piles of folders. The score was in green folders". The reference to green folders is intriguing because the Havergal Brian Society believes the score is bound in two green volumes, a fact that Mrs Brown could not have been aware of two years ago. Peter Dorling tried to track down the manuscripts and did find an office on the fourth floor which resembled Mrs Brown’s description. They were the offices of Roger Cary, then in Secretariat, and were full of folders, books and papers. But Roger Cary was certain that his office was not the resting place the Havergal Brian score.

Peter Dorling’s detective work uncovered one other lead. He was told of a mysterious safe which stood in a courtyard behind BH hefore the extension was built. When the site was cleared the safe was forced open and inside were music manuscripts and other papers. But there the trail runs cold. No one is sure what happened to the papers. The Music Library at Yalding House has made its own search for the Prometheus Unbound score. When Brian died all his manuscripts were returned to the family. The full score was not listed as being part of BBC stock. The library does have a microfilm copy of the vocal score for Prometheus Unbound but it is useless without the orchestral score. Peter Dorling has asked the remarkable Mrs Brown to try and contact Havergal Brian for more specific information on where the lost score might be. I will keep readers informed of any further developments - psychic or otherwise.

LOST IN 1939 - Sunday Times 12.2.78
The tigers, an opera by Havergal Brian (who died four years) ago has been found in a pile of rubbish in a Tin Pan Alley basement. It has never been performed although we published the vocal score in 1932, says Richard Valery a director of Cranz & Co Ltd, music publishers. "But it seems that Brian gave the full score to Sir Thomas Beecham to consider after which it completely disappeared. During the Second World War, the offices of Cranz - a German company - were closed and the stock was transferred to the BBC Library. Then Southern Music Co, which had offices in Denmark Street became the custodians". Last year the Havergal Brian Society offered a reward of £500 for the recovery of the score.

John Underwood and Allan Dann, employees of Southern Music recalled a bulky work by Brian which they had unearthed while clearing out the basement. "We examined the three bound volumes they had found among a lot of rubbish" says Richard Valery, "and to our delight it turned out to be the long lost opera. We are extremely grateful, especially as the finders have declined the reward; we are having orchestral parts copied as soon at possible". The opera is a massive work which relates the comic misadventures of an infantry regiment in the First World War. "We have already had inquiries about possible performances," says Valery, "but it will be an expensive business".

The full score of Havergal Brian ‘s first opera, The Tigers has been found in the basement of a London music publisher (our Music Reporter writes). Written between 1916 and 1929, it is a satirical fantasy which begins with the threat of a Zeppelin raid against the background of a volcanic eruption. The Havergal Brian Society recently received a donation of £500 to establish a reward fund for the discovery of lost scores by the composer.

A special reward fund set up to promote discovery of a lost opera by the English composer Havergal Brian has had "immediate and spectacular success" thanks to publicity in Music Week. John Underwood and Allan Dann of Southern Music in Denmark Street, read the letter from David Brown of the Havergal Brian Society and recalled that when they took over the premises they had found three large bound manuscripts volumes in the basement. These have now been identified as the full score of Brians’s first and most spectacular opera, The tigers, which he began in 1916. According to an inscription the full score was not completed until 1929, much of the intervening time having been spent on composition of the Gothic Symphony.

One of the aims of the Havergal Brian Society is to gather together as much information as possible on the whereabouts of Brian’s lost music. It was able to set up the £500 reward fund as a result of an anonymous donation given expressly for the purpose. Brian died in 1972, aged 96. The vocal score of The tigers was published by Cranz & Co in 1932; and until now this has been the only musical evidence of the opera’s existence apart from sets of parts for several of the work’s symphonic dances (these were the basis for a performance of some 50 minutes at a London concert last January).

Now that the full score has come to light the publishers are making preparation of performing materials an urgent priority. The tigers is a satirical fantasy on the theme of warfare and says David Brown, provides endless opportunties for imaginative stage production. It begins with a Bank Holiday Carnival scene on a Hampstead Heath and ends with a threatened Zeppelin raid against the background of a volcanic eruption.


Newsletter, NL 15