Is there a piece of Classical music you wanted to like, but just couldn’t?

OP, and I’ll go first.

Havergal Brian’s Symphony No. 1 “The Gothic”.

I first heard of Brian from the Guinness Book of Records, back before it became a picture book. My curiosity was reawakened this past year through some random link taking me to the Havergal Brian Society’s pages. His life story is cool; his early work sounds like Mahler on steroids—as do the criticisms of his early work; his late stuff sounds enigmatic, but still full of awesome marches.

I borrowed everything on him I could find from the Melbourne Uni Music library. Biographies, analyses, appreciations. And I sat down to listen to the Gothic on Youtube. Several times.

I wanted to like it. I really really wanted to like it. And it does have some amazing moments.

But I have to agree with most critics. It’s just too incoherent to love or even get into. And the whole “it ends anticlimactically, on purpose” thing, which people trot out as a defence, works for Mahler’s 5th, and it may (if you’re being charitable) even work for Mahler’s 7th (a damn good symphony, but I don’t buy the finale either).

But in this case, sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.

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