Has there ever been a time in phonographic history when so much
British music has been available on commercial media? I think
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
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
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.
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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