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William C. Lynch Dennis Brain Collection

December 6, 2013
French Horn

The Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound has recently finished processing the William C. Lynch Dennis Brain Collection. This collection is believed to be the largest of its kind in North America, if not the most comprehensive and organized collection of recorded music relating to the British horn player Dennis Brain (1921-1957), anywhere in the world. A full itemized finding aid for the collection is now available online

During his career, cut tragically short in 1957 when he was killed in a car accident at the age of 36, Dennis Brain became known, alongside his father Aubrey Brain, as one of the world's greatest practitioners of the French Horn. From his earliest days playing in the RAF Orchestra during World War II, to his later orchestral roles as principal horn of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and then the Philharmonia Orchestra, as well as work as a highly regarded soloist, Brain quickly established himself as one of the most sought after hornists in Europe. He became highly regarded for his performances and recordings of horn concertos by Mozart and Strauss, as well as works by contemporary composers, many of which were written for him by the likes of Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith, Gordon Jacob, Malcolm Arnold, and Elisabeth Lutyens. Perhaps the most well known of the works written for Brain is Britten's Serenade, which remains today one of the composer's most often performed instrumental works. While never actually completed and therefore not performed at the time, Britten in fact composed a memorial work for Brain, entitled In memoriam Dennis Brain, for the 1958 Aldeburgh Festival, such was his regard for the hornist. This work was recently recorded for the first time on the NMC label and is available through Naxos Music Library

The William C. Lynch Dennis Brain Collection consists of commercial and unpublished orchestral and solo recordings, featuring Brain, on audiocassette, compact disc, 33rpm long play and 78rpm records, VHS video cassette, and DVD. Also included are research notes, sheet music, photographs, and books pertaining to Dennis Brain from the late 1930’s until his untimely death in 1957, along with research materials pertaining to the publication of "Dennis Brain : a life in music", co-authored by the donor, William Lynch, and fellow researcher Stephen Gamble, published by University of North Texas Press in 2011. 

A number of additions will be made to the collection in the coming years as new recordings and findings pertaining to Brain are discovered, along with additional archival materials also recently donated by Stephen Gamble, which include original concert programs, rare scores, correspondence, and photographs, previously in the possession of Mrs Aubrey Brain, Dennis Brain's sister-in-law.