Lyrita – Daniel Jones

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.4 (In memory of Dylan Thomas)
Symphony No.7
Symphony No.8

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Charles Groves [Symphonies 4 & 7]

BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra
Bryden Thomson

Symphonies 4 & 7 recorded on 18 & 19 April 1972 in Studio No.1, Abbey Road, London; Symphony No.8 recorded on 10 and/or 11 February 1979 at BBC Llandaff

Reviewed by: Jimmy Hughes

Reviewed: October 2007
Duration: 78 minutes



Daniel Jones (1912-1993) was one of the leading Welsh composers during the immediate post-War years. All told, he wrote 13 symphonies, the last completed in 1992.Jones’s Fourth Symphony (In Memory of Dylan Thomas) lasts a little over half-an-hour. It was completed in 1954 and written in response to the Poet’s death in November 1953. Dylan Thomas had been one of Jones’s friends since boyhood, and the composer’s response to his tragically-early demise is one of sadness and sombre restraint. The symphony is a serious, somewhat elegiac, three-movement work, with a central Allegro capriccioso scherzo flanked by two darkly coloured slow movements. The Petrushka-like pizzicato ending is rather unsettling.

The Seventh symphony dates from 1972, and inhabits a very different world. In five movements, it is more colourfully scored, with greater rhythmic contrast, yet still retains a certain reserved severity. It opens with a dark and somewhat brooding first movement followed by grave Espressivo slow movement. Another solemn, if eloquent, and sometimes chilly, slow movement marked Solenne follows a short racy Scherzando. The work ends with a short final movement marked Con brio that grows seamlessly from the second slow movement.

The Eighth symphony is in four movements and likewise dates from 1972. It was dedicated to the memory of another of the composer’s friends – the conductor Warwick Braithwaite who died in 1971. Again, it sounds quite different to the other two symphonies on the disc, making much use of pitched percussion to celebrate Braithwaite’s somewhat volatile and ebullient personality.

The performances sound atmospheric, committed, crisp, confident, and very idiomatic. One could hardly hope to hear this music better played. Both Sir Charles Groves and Bryden Thomson were enthusiastic advocates of Jones’s music, and doubtless as a result the playing and direction has rightness about it. Jones dedicated the Seventh symphony to Groves.

The recordings of symphonies 4 and 7 were made by EMI in London’s Abbey Road studios over a couple of days during April 1972, and were originally released on ASD 2855 – a very rare and collectible LP incidentally.

Thomson’s recording of Symphony No 8 was made for the BBC (with Robert Auger producing and engineering) during 1979. The sound throughout is excellent; clean, smooth, clear, and well-balanced. There’s some lovely ‘breathy’ bass drum sounds at the start of the Fourth Symphony – something of an EMI ‘trademark’ at that time – and the reproduction wears its years surprisingly lightly.

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