British & Commonwealth Symphonies

A Discography Of CDs And LPs
Prepared by Michael Herman
Maintained by Stephen Ellis

National Discographies Home Page

Last Updated: May 2023

Composers A-GComposers H-Z
Sir Edward ElgarRalph Vaughan Williams


Ask most moderately knowledgeable classical music lovers to name some British composers who wrote symphonies and you will encounter many blank stares. A few would undoubtedly come up with Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton and Britten as these are the British composers whose names they have heard. Record collectors will probably be aware of some further names unless they are strictly performer rather than composer oriented. Even the most exploratory type of collector would have trouble guessing that symphonies by more than 210 composers from the British Isles and the Commonwealth have been represented on long-playing records and compact discs since the middle of the twentieth century. It is the purpose of this work to document this vast output of recordings and to serve as a reference work for further study by others. Another tangential purpose is to survey the production of symphonies in the stated time frame and to show the continuity between the generations of composers as a result of their education by their predecessors.

The composers included in this discography are those born in or who came to live in the United Kingdom, The Republic of Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Geography is the only determining factor for inclusion as there is no attempt here to argue for the existence of any so-called “British” symphonic style identity that would cover such a vast range of composers.

A chronological structure has been used in order to show the progression of symphonic works from the early nineteenth century up to our own time. This chronology is based on the birth year of the composer rather than the year a symphony was written. A composer index is placed first so the reader can immediately go to any particular composer.

The entry for each composer consists of two sections. First there is a compact biographical paragraph that notes some essential information such as place of birth, higher musical education (including schools and prominent teachers), subsequent musical careers in addition to composing, details of other symphonies that have not been recorded and selective lists of other works for orchestra. If the composers’ teachers who are mentioned were or are also British or Commonwealth symphonists and do not have their own entry in this book their dates and number of symphonies written will be noted in parentheses. Compositional styles are not discussed in these paragraphs and readers are referred to the bibliography where various reference books that cover this subject are listed.

The second part of each composer entry consists of lists of his or her symphonies that have been recorded and the various recordings of each work. Symphony is defined here as any work the composer has designated as such in its title including works called “sinfonia” or “sinfonietta.” The works can be for full orchestra, chamber orchestra, strings, winds, brass or chorus and orchestra. For every symphony that has them, the opus number, key signature and title are noted and the year of composition is stated for all. The entries of the symphonies that have had multiple recordings are listed alphabetically by the conductor’s name. Each listing of a recording consists of the following components (if known): (1) Performers (in this order if all are involved – conductor, soloists, choral group, orchestra), (2) Other works on the recording. If one of the couplings is a major concerto the soloist is listed, (3) Label and catalogue number and year of issue and (4) If the recording is a reissue, the original LP or CD release and its year of issue (CD unless otherwise indicated).

The author has endeavored to list every recording of every symphony written by a British or Commonwealth composer that has been published since the advent of the long-playing record in 1948. However, the following points should be kept in mind. The research was limited to sources in the English-speaking world. There has been no attempt to delve into the record catalogues of France, Germany or any other country that may have possibly produced an original recording of one of the covered symphonies that did not appear in British or American catalogues. Also, there has been no attempt to list every reissue of every recording. Some recordings, especially those made by the so-called “major labels,” have been reissued so often, first on records then on compact discs, that the author has tried to confine the listings basically to only the most current and the original releases of each recording. Likewise, there has been no attempt to indicate whether recordings are mono or stereo (or any other audio system) or to comment about availability. Furthermore, as the focus of this book is British, the catalogue numbers identify British releases in the vast majority of instances. Finally, there is a strong certainty on the author’s part that a number of recordings have been missed. With the multiple thousands of recordings that have been issued over the past sixty years and the evanescence of so many of them one cannot but help reaching this conclusion.

Nearly all of the recordings listed in this book are commercial issues that anyone could purchase if they happened to be around at the right time. However, also included here are a number of non-commercial or private LPs that were issued by governmental broadcasting organizations or music publishers that were not available to the general public. However, these types of recordings can be found in libraries and do turn up for sale at times so their existence ought to be documented. In addition there are a number of unauthorized or “pirate” LPs and CDs found in these pages. They were widely distributed and found their way into many collections and were in many instances the only available recording of a particular work. These recordings were issued with either the actual or pseudonymous names of performers. The symbol ▼ is used here to designate this type of recording.

The Symphony arrived in the British Isles in the eighteenth century. The immigrant German composers Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787) and Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782) were very crucial in its development as they not only wrote symphonies themselves but also established in 1765 a series of subscription concerts in London that brought the music of the Continent’s leading composers to the ears of British audiences. The native composers in this period had already begun writing symphonies that were derived from the Italian-style overture-symphony that was characterized by a short length, three movements and, usually, material derived from other sources. The 4 Symphonies of Thomas Arne (1710-1778) and the 8 of William Boyce (1711-1779) are the most famous British examples of this type of composition and they have been recorded several times. With the advent of Haydn, Mozart and then Beethoven at the end of the century, the symphony was changed into the grander conception that carried it to its place at the pinnacle of orchestral music composition.

The composer listings in this book begin with the dawn of the nineteenth century when the new type of symphony began to be written by British composers. Samuel Wesley, the first composer listed was still basically influenced by the earlier style as exemplified by Abel and Bach but with Cipriani Potter the sound of the new wave from Vienna is evident. For the remainder of the nineteenth century British composers of symphonies would continue to use their counterparts in Germany and Austria as their models. Beethoven and his successors Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms are never far away from the musical language of British symphonic scores. The twentieth century brought about a plethora of new influences such as the folk song revival, the influence of impressionism, Sibelius, the Second Viennese School, neo-classicism and modernism in general and all of these would be reflected in the symphonic output of the British Isles and its overseas Dominions. As the last pages of the composer listings should indicate, the symphonic form is alive and well in our subject countries and, hopefully, will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

It should be very clear from the pages that follow that the symphony as written by British and Commonwealth composers has been well documented on recordings. This is especially true for composers who lived or live in the United Kingdom itself. Over the years and particularly since the advent of the compact disc more and more previously unrecorded symphonies have become available. Many composers whose names and works used to exist only in reference books and footnotes are now being heard after many years of dormancy. The British record industry deserves special commendation for this situation as it has continually kept the collector well supplied with symphonic novelties to explore. These pioneering recording efforts have been aided by subsidies from governmental agencies, regional arts councils, composers’ trusts and societies and private companies. In the early LP era the major labels EMI and Decca led the way with their championship of Elgar and Vaughan Williams and some forays into more unknown regions. Over the last three decades, however, these types of projects have increasingly found their homes on independent British labels such as Lyrita, Chandos, Hyperion, NMC, Dutton Vocalion, Toccata Classics and ASV. Hong Kong based Naxos, now the world’s biggest producer of classical CDs, has also become a major source for original recordings of unusual British repertoire on both its Marco Polo and bargain-priced Naxos labels.

Of course collectors can never be totally satisfied and always hope that further treasures will come their way. Anyone who has followed this particular musical area has their own list of symphonies that they would love to see recorded. From having heard many unrecorded British symphonies from tapes of BBC broadcasts and also from extensive reading, the author has the following symphonists on his personal wish list: Arthur Somervell (1863-1937), William Baines (1899-1922), John Veale (1922-2006), Christopher Steel (1938-1991) and Derek Bourgeois (b. 1941).

Let us now proceed away from the realm of wish fulfillment and examine the vast riches that have over the years made the composers of the British Isles and the Commonwealth among the best represented symphonists on recordings (if not in the concert hall) in the world.
Michael Herman July 2007

I would like to thank the following people for their help in the preparation of this book: Rob Barnett at MusicWeb International, Linda Kirkpatrick at the Australian Music Centre, Martin Anderson, Jürgen Schaarwächter, Matthew Taylor, John Metcalf, Paul Snook and Mrs. Margaret Wilson.

Composer List

Abbott, Katy
Adaskin, Murray
Adès, Thomas
Albert, Eugène d’
Alwyn, William
Anderson, Julian
Archer, Violet
Armstrong, Thomas
Arnell, Richard
Arnold, Malcolm
Austin, Frederic
Bainton, Edgar
Ball, Eric
Bantock, Granville
Barry, Darrol
Bate, Stanley
Bax, Arnold
Beal, Keith
Beamish, Sally
Bedford, David
Bell, Derek
Bell, William Henry
Benjamin, Arthur
Bennett, Richard Rodney
Bennett, William Sterndale
Berkeley, Lennox
Berkeley, Michael
Binge, Ronald
Blake, Christopher
Blake, Howard
Bliss, Arthur
Blower, Maurice
Bodley, Seóirse
Boughton, Rutland
Bourgeois, Derek
Bowen, York
Boyle, Ina
Bracanin, Philip
Brady, Tim
Brian, Havergal
Bridge, Frank
Britten, Benjamin
Broadstock, Brenton
Bromhead, Jerome de
Bruce, Robert
Brumby, Colin
Buckley, John
Bush, Alan
Bush, Geoffrey
Butterworth, Arthur
Carr, Edwin
Causton, Richard
Chagrin, Francis
Champagne, Claude
Chisholm, Erik
Clarke, Nigel
Cliffe, Frederic
Clifford, Hubert
Coleridge-Taylor, Samuel
Collins, Anthony
Cooke, Arnold
Corp, Ronald
Corcoran, Frank
Cowen, Frederic
Crosse, Gordon
Crossley-Holland, Peter
Crotch, William
Csányi-Willis, Michael
Curtis, Matthew
Davey, Sean
Davies, Peter Maxwell
Dean, Brett
Dickenson-Auner, Mary
Douglas, Clive
Douglas, Paul
Downes, Andrew  
Dreyfus, George
Duncan, Trevor
Dunhill, Thomas
Du Plessis, Hubert
Dyson, George
Eckhardt-Grammaté, Sophie-Carmen
Edwards, Ross
Elcock, Steve
Elgar, Edward
Elmsley, John
Estacio, John
Fagan, Gideon
Farnon, Robert
Farquhar, David
Fleischmann, Aloys
Fletcher, Percy
Frankel, Benjamin
Fricker, Peter Racine
Gál, Hans
Gardner, John
Gellman, Steven
Gerhard, Roberto
German, Edward
Gibbs, Cecil Armstrong
Gipps, Ruth
Glanville-Hicks, Peggy
Glick, Srul Irving
Goehr, Alexander
Golightly, David
Goossens, Eugene
Gorb, Adam
Gregson, Edward
Griller, Arnold
Gross, Eric
Gunning, Christopher
Hadley, Patrick
Hamilton, Iain
Harris, Ross
Hanson, Raymond
Harper, Edward
Hart, Fritz
Harty, Hamilton
Hawes, Patrick
Hely-Hutchinson, Victor
Hétu, Jacques
Hill, Alfred
Hill, Mirrie
Ho, Vincent
Hoddinott, Alun
Holbrooke, Joseph
Holland, Dulcie
Holst, Gustav
Horovitz, Joseph
Hurd, Michael
Hughes, ed
Hughes, Robert
Jacob, Gordon
Jenkins, Clive
Johnson, David Hackbridge
Johnson, Laurie
Jones, Daniel
Josephs, Wilfred
Joubert, John
Keal, Minna
Keeley, Rob
Ķeniņš, Tālivaldis
Kinsella, John
Knussen, Oliver
Lamond, Frederic
Le Gallienne, Dorian
Leighton, Kenneth
Lilburn, Douglas
Lipkin, Malcolm
Lloyd, George
Lloyd, Jonathan
Lovelock, William
Macfarren, George
MacMillan, James
Maconchy, Elizabeth
Mann, Leslie
Marshall-Hall, G.W.
Martelli, Carlo
Mathias, William
Matthews, David
Matthews, Michael
Maw, Nicholas
McCabe, John
McEwen, John
McLeod, Jenny
McNeff, Stephen
McPhee, Colin
Meale, Richard
Metcalf, John
Mills, Richard
Milner, Anthony
Moeran, Ernest J.
Morawetz, Oskar
Morel, François
Nash, Peter Paul
Newton, Rodney
Nyman, Michael
O’Brien, Charles
O’Connell, Kevin
Orr, Robin
Panufnik, Andrzej
Papineau-Couture, Jean
Parker, C.S.L. (Stephen)
Parker, Jim
Parrott, Ian
Parry, Hubert
Patterson, Paul
Penberthy, James
Pentland, Barbara
Pépin, Clermont
Phillips, Montague
Pickard, John
Potter, Archibald J.
Potter, Phillip Cipriani
Rawsthorne, Alan
Rimmer, John
Ritchie, Anthony
Robertson, Ernest John
Rogers, Eric
Rootham, Cyril
Rubbra, Edmund
Ryan, Jeffrey
Sawyers, Philip
Saxton, Robert
Scott, Cyril
Searle, Humphrey
Simpson, Robert
Smalley, Roger
Smith, Alice Mary
Smyth, Ethyl
Somers, Harry
Somervell, Arthur
Sparke, Philip
Spratley, Philip
Speight, John
Standford, Patric
Stanford, Charles
Stevens, Bernard
Stevens, James
Still, Robert
Sullivan, Arthur
Tahourdin, Peter
Taylor, Matthew
Tippett, Michael
Tomlinson, Ernest
Tovey, Donald
Truscott, Harold
Turner, Robert
Vaughan Williams, Ralph
Veale, John
Vine, Carl
Vinter, Gilbert
Wallace, Willliam
Walters, Gareth
Walton, William
Waterhouse, Graham
Watkins, Huw
Wellesz, Egon
Werder, Felix
Wesley, Samuel
Whettam, Graham
Whitlock, Percy
Wilby, Philip
Wilkins, Margaret Lucy
Willan, Healy
Williams, Grace
Williamson, Malcolm
Wilson, Thomas
Wood, Hugh
Wordsworth, William
Wyk, Arnold van
Young, Kenneth
Zaidel-Rudolph, Jeanne