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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Alun HODDINOTT (1929-2008)
Four Welsh Dances Op.15 (1958) [7:29]*
Overture, Jack Straw Op. 35 (1964) [5:02]**
Concerto Grosso No. 2 Op.46 (1966) [12:54]***
Investiture Dances Op. 66 (1966) [7:46]***
Welsh Dances, Set 2 Op.64 (1969) [9:03]***
William MATHIAS (1934-1992)
Celtic Dances Op.60 (1972) [14:02]***
Daniel JONES (1912-1993)
Dance Fantasy (1976) [7:42] ****
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra */Charles Groves
Philharmonia Orchestra **/Charles Groves
National Youth Orchestra of Wales ***/Arthur Davison
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra ****/Bryden Thomson
rec. Afan Lido, Port Talbot, Glamorgan, 1972 (EMI LP ASD2739) (op. 15); Brent Town Hall, Wembley, November 1980 (Unicorn Digital RHD401) (op. 35); 1974-5 (BBC LP REC222) (op. 46, 66, 64 Mathias); 1974-5 (BBC LP REGL359) (Jones). ADD/DDD
LYRITA SRCD.334 [64.31] 

Experience Classicsonline

Sound Samples
Hoddinott Four Welsh Dances Op.15 No 4 mp3 streaming
Hoddinott Jack Straw excerpt mp3 streaming
Mathias Celtic Dances Op60 No 1 excerpt mp3 streaming
Jones Dance Fantasy excerpt
mp3 streaming


Has there ever been a time in phonographic history when so much British music has been available on commercial media? I think not.  
One can only applaud Lyrita's Richard Itter for his seemingly single-minded mission in not only recording so much but also in hunting down the licences for LP-originated material from the 1970s. Wyastone Estates made the CDs a practical proposition and have been steadfast and inspired in their presentation. This 'Welsh Dances' collection showcases some of the results.

On this disc there are three sets of dances by Hoddinott, one set by Mathias and one Dance Fantasy by Daniel Jones. The Welsh Dances op. 15 (1958) are unashamedly modelled after those of Malcolm Arnold - nothing untoward in that. This is not Hoddinott the dour and dissonant; this is Hoddinott the dance celebrant whether in virile Chaucerian exuberance or in liquid poetry. Each facet is embraced. The bardic pastoral-romantic rhapsodist is irresistibly to the fore in Welsh Dance No. 3. The whirling jackanapes energy and wiry xylophone-etched, tambourine-punctuated final dance brings the sequence to a whooping close. The set of four was premiered by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Vilem Tausky at the RFH in 1959.

The three Investiture Dances are from the same genre as the op. 15 but eight years later. These were written for the Investiture of Prince Charles at Caernarfon Castle in July 1969 - an event haunted by a bombing campaign. They were premiered by Sir Charles Groves at the RAH on 22 June 1969. Two flighty, whistlingly tuneful and sometimes impudent dances sandwich a warmly bathed Andante. There's a Bobbie Shaftoe Arnoldian flavour to the last dance.

The 1969 set of Welsh Dances op. 64 together with Op. 15 make an eight to counterpart the two sets of Arnold's four English Dances. Hoddinnott is here caught in the honourable act of entertaining the widest swathe of audience something he could always do in parallel with his 'serious' concert work.

The varied set of panels offered in Concerto Grosso No. 2 contrast with a peppery and not completely convincing Jack Straw overture. Hoddinott's Jack Straw is a little character piece written in 1964 then given a makeover in 1980. The Jack Straw referred to has nothing to do with politics of the current or last century. It relates to the rebel tailor who with Wat Tyler and John Ball raised Cain and insurrection in the fourteenth century. This music is more thorny than the dances and is replete with gawky impudence, conspiratorial asides and explosively dissonant expostulations. It hangs together only loosely.

In 1966 Hoddinott completed his Concerto Grosso No. 2 for the 21st birthday of the NYO Wales and the 80th of its conductor Clarence Raybould. The six short movements range from braying triumph à la Grace Williams to bluff jocularity, to a misty mystery akin to Arnold's Cornish wheelhouses and Ives' Unanswered Question. There's a pizzicato Intermezzo underpinned with anxiety and a sour Aria which muses with harp, two flutes and solo violin.

Mathias was a brilliant orchestral magician. His Celtic Dances chime and tinkle much as we would expect from our knowledge of his dazzling Dance Overture (SRCD 328) and his orchestral psychological studies: Laudi 1973, Vistas 1975, Helios 1977 and Requiescat 1978. The second Celtic Dance has a faintly medieval flavour, the third is rather Rózsa pastoral. 
The Daniel Jones Dance Fantasy is the most recent work here. Written for the 1976 North Wales Music Festival it has the glorious, uninterrupted, mercurial-optimistic clangour and flow of the Grace Williams Ballads for Orchestra SRCD327. There's also a touch of Copland and even Iberia about this dynamic yet bardic music. The opening and closing of the piece has a rampant Blissy leonine quality but given the Cambrian dimension perhaps I should say draconine.

The good scene-setting notes are by the redoubtable Paul Conway.

Mainly Wesh orchestral dance: winsome yet pungent on occasion.

Rob Barnett



Also available on Lyrita
SRCD.331 Alun Hoddinott Symphonies 2 3 5
SRCD.332 Alun Hoddinott Dives & Lazarus
SRCD.324 William Mathias Ave Rex
SRCD.325 William Mathias Concertos
SRCD.328 William Mathias Laudi Vistas
SRCD.326 Daniel Jones Symphonies 6 9
SRCD.329 Daniel Jones Symphonies 4 7 8 

available on Nimbus

NI5243 Mathias Church and Choral Music
NI5260 Mathias Symphonies 1 & 2
NI5343 Mathias Symphony No.3 / Oboe Concerto / Requiescat / Helios
NI 5367 Mathias Organ Works

 


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