Lyrita – Welsh Dances [Alun Hoddinott, William Mathias & Daniel Jones]

0 of 5 stars

Hoddinott
Four Welsh Dances, Op.15
Overture, Jack Straw, Op.35
Concerto Grosso No.2, Op.46
Investiture Dances, Op.66
Welsh Dances, Set 2, Op.64
Mathias
Celtic Dances, Op.60
Daniel Jones
Dance Fantasy

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Philharmonia Orchestra
Sir Charles Groves

National Youth Orchestra of Wales
Arthur Davison

BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra
Bryden Thomson

Recorded between 1972 and 1980


Reviewed by: Peter Joelson

Reviewed: August 2009
CD No: LYRITA SRCD.334
Duration: 65 minutes

Alun Hoddinott (1929-2008) wrote three sets of Welsh Dances; these are directly comparable to Sir Malcolm Arnold’s English and Cornish Dances, and impress with their variety of mood and texture. The tunes used are original ones by Hoddinott, which nevertheless evoke a Welsh ethos. The slow Dances conjure brooding melancholy and the quick ones are of effervescent vitality. The first set was recorded by Brian Culverhouse in a resonant Afan Lido, yet Sir Charles Groves elicits a detailed sound from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.


The second set – for Prince Charles’s investiture as Prince of Wales – is played by the National Youth Orchestra of Wales under Arthur Davison. Excellent results are achieved. Investiture Dances was an RPO commission, also from 1969, and the NYO of Wales brings out the ceremonial and celebratory aspects of the outer movements. The central dance is slow with an exquisitely realised solo for oboe.


The overture Jack Straw depicts the 14th-century co-conspirator of Wat Tyler and John Ball (leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt); dark drama contrasts with hope and vitality. This receives excellent recording quality courtesy of Bob Auger in Brent Town Hall, and a performance full of life from the Philharmonia Orchestra and Groves.


Concerto Grosso No.2 is a fairly substantial work written for the NYO of Wales and Clarence Raybould. It was designed to show off soloists as well as the whole orchestra. The delightful scherzo is scored for wind and percussion, its central section a canon for reeds and horns. Again, the NYO of Wales produces excellent results under Arthur Davison.


William Mathias (1934-1992) wrote Celtic Dances in 1972 for the Welsh League of Youth’s 50th-anniversary, the dances representing the Celt character in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany. The music is colourful, conjuring up magical scenes, iridescent tones, seascapes with mysterious sounds and, in the last movement, a Scottish flavour with typical rhythms, all served up with delight by the NYO of Wales.


Daniel Jones (1912-1993) wrote the youthful-sounding Dance Fantasy in 1976, for the North Wales Music Festival, this recording soon appearing on a BBC LP. Its appearance on CD is very welcome, Simon Gibson’s mastering for this release as expert as ever. This is a vigorous piece full of vitality, and rhythmically interesting, a set of continuous variations with many contrasts, and receives a vibrant performance by the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra under Bryden Thomson.



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