Daniel Jones’ music
does not deserve its neglect, and this
disc shows why.
Jones wrote thirteen
symphonies in all. Lyn Davies’ excellent
booklet notes tell us that the Symphonies
Nos. 6-8 (1964-1972) ‘see a greater
emphasis on clarity and conciseness
and move away from a more romantic outlook
towards classical outlines’. It is certainly
true that Jones was a master orchestrator
(textures seem continually clear, with
little or no obfuscation of lines).
The dark, craggy and
disjunct opening of the Sixth Symphony
of 1964 immediately sets out the terrain.
This is a dramatic gesture (almost but
not quite filmic) designed to prepare
the listener for an emotional work-out.
Jones’ use of harmony is interesting
in that for contrast he can call upon
constructs that can best be described
as ‘sugary’. He is unafraid of any resultant
perceived anomalies, as his compositional
technique is more than enough to encompass
extremes. The metrical games (juxtapositions)
of the Agitato second movement (of six,
grouped into pairs) are underpinned
with an intense seriousness of intent.
If the harmonic language of the Sostenuto
(third movement; beginning of the second
‘part’) seems at first a trifle anonymous,
the long, achingly lyrical lines that
Jones calls on later are most affecting
(especially in as concentrated a performance
as this one, with the RPO’s strings
outdoing themselves). The ensuing Con
brio section is also performed magnificently.
Unfortunately the last part seems to
have a slight tendency to meander, rendering
it something of an anticlimax. Nevertheless
this piece demands to be heard.
The Ninth Symphony
was commissioned by the Llandaff Festival
and is dedicated to the composer’s wife,
Irene. It is around ten minutes shorter
than the Sixth and seems, as if to reflect
this, even more terse (in its outer
movements, at least). The first movement
immediately gives off an almost tangible
sense of the larger structure (having
Bryden Thomson at the helm must surely
help here); the argument is gritty.
Much of the surface shifts restlessly.
Pungent harmonies make
the Lento a memorable experience (and
for a measure of how involved the payers
are, listen to how the violins attack
their entrance at 2’21). Although only
six and a half minutes long, this movement
actually constitutes quite an epic journey.
The mobile accents of the Allegro scherzando
are much more of the dance variety that
the music has hitherto allowed; alas,
the finale is perhaps surprisingly brief.
A choral Cantata rounds
off this release. The Country Beyond
the Stars sets a text by Henry Vaughan
(1622-1695). There are some lovely moments
in a work that exhales the air of the
Valleys. It is appropriate perhaps that
the chorus should be that of Welsh National
Opera. The chorus sings with the utmost
dedication. This is a heart-warming
work and the orchestra plays marvellously
(it even has a movement to itself –
the third, entitled, ‘Morning Visitors’).
The fourth movement, ‘The Morning Watch’,
somehow gives the impression it is to
close the Cantata, but a full two movements
are left. ‘The Evening Watch’, is a
gentle crepuscular evocation of sleep
and death. Few movements are more aptly
titled than the final ‘Cheerfulness’,
with its ever-so-jaunty theme that is
subjected to seemingly endless imitation.
A more spiritual aspiration kicks in
at the line, ‘O that I were all soul!’.
Simon Gibson’s remastering
of the various Pye, HMV and BBC sources
is superb. He admits to a technical
fault on the master tape of Symphony
No. 6, but it will not detract from
anyone’s appreciation of this obviously
I have no doubt that
there are those who will find this disc
(or at the very least parts of it) nothing
short of revelatory.
Jones by Hubert Culot