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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

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

There’s pretty much unrelieved enjoyment enshrined in this disc, recorded between 1972 and 1980. The bulk is owned by Alan Hoddinott, who is here to be found in genially unbuttoned mood, with no hint of a brow furrow or a questioning mien.

His 1958 Welsh Dances are short, pithy and laced with zest. The second in particular is a charmer, especially zesty, and its scoring is deftly apposite for its purpose, the Arnoldian tinges (Malcolm not Matthew) quite clear. Note the long echo in the Afan Lido, Port Talbot. There’s also the warm rounded horns in the third with its warm wash of string tone. Yes, the whoops in the final dance bespeak Arnold once more but they’re engagingly dynamic. The second set of Dances was composed over a decade later. One reprises the succinct virtues of Hoddinott’s writing, noting the craft, the sturdy and resonant tunes, and especially the al fresco vibrancy of the last - a real winner.

The Jack Straw overture is a tougher piece of meat. Composed in 1964 and revised in 1980 it’s only five minutes long and has come in for some critical stick. It would in fact work better as a tone poem; its pawky Mahlerian march and fulsome orchestration would breathe better on a larger canvass. Good to hear in this context, nevertheless. The Op.46 Concerto Grosso No.2 was written jointly for the birthdays of NYO Wales and Clarence Raybould, the conductor. It’s a fine and uncondescending piece, very cleverly written for the forces, and despite its relative brevity it has a weighty sense of concentration and a rich variety of moods. Finally there are the Investiture Dances, written for Prince Charles’s investiture in 1969 - three dances variously lithe and warm, full of repose (with a long oboe solo) and finally chockfull of cheeky energy.

William Mathias contributes his Celtic Dances (1972), which are terrific and should be played more often. From the gauzy opening we are in the hands of a master orchestrator. The slightly extra space of each movement also allows for more wistful and penetrating development, such as the percussion vitality amidst the Druidic dance of the first dance. The lyricism is eloquent, and the catches of song in the third dance - just slightly reminiscent of Bliss’s string writing - surge and spew with splendid alertness. The Scottish vigour of the last dance is brimful of Bard. To end there is the Dance Fantasy of Daniel Jones, a fluid and evocative piece laced with strong dance patterns and fully worthy to keep the fast company of Mathias and Hoddinott.

Three conductors - all, alas, now dead - and four orchestras bear the burden with great spirit and sensitivity. This is a welcome restoration. 

Jonathan Woolf

see also reviews by John France and Rob Barnett


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