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Sense and Sound: Gerhard's Fourth Symphony

Calum MacDonald

The publication and recording of one of the principal works of Gerhard's last years is a double event of major importance. Although Gerhard wrote so many notable works in the final decade of his life that one hesitates to call the Fourth Symphony the greatest of them, it is wholly representative of a composer who is coming to be recognized as one of the foremost of our time. If full recognition has not yet been accorded him, it may be because of the superficial but widespread assumption that the works of his last period are largely demonstrations of brilliant textural invention whose structural raison d'être can be felt only ‘intuitively’ (and thus, of course, needn't be explained). We are asked to take even the audible structure (or as some commentators seem to imply, the lack of it) on trust.

Calum MacDonald was born in Nairn in 1948 and educated in Edinburgh and Cambridge. He is the author of Havergal Brian; Perspective on the Music, and is at present reconstructing the lost scores of Brian's Symphonic Dances.