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CD Review

Welsh Dances

  • Alun Hoddinott:
  • 4 Welsh Dances, Op. 15 1
  • Overture "Jack Straw", Op. 35 2
  • Welsh Dances Set 2, Op. 64 3
  • Investiture Dances Op. 66 3
  • William Mathias: Celtic Dances, Op. 60 3
  • Daniel Jones: Dance Fantasy 4
1 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Groves
2 Philharmonia Orchestra/Charles Groves
3 National Youth Orchestra of Wales/Arthur Davison
4 BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
Lyrita SRCD334 64m ADD
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It is certainly not a common occurrence to find oneself reviewing an issue dedicated to music by three Welsh composers, but this CD is not only a voyage of discovery of a still obscure musical world, but alsoa gild-edged opportunity to enjoy some of the best British pieces composed during the second half of the 20th century.

Maybe the only qualm I have is the way the programme is distributed. Alun Hoddinott (1929-2008) is represented by five works while William Mathias (1934-92) and Daniel Jones (1912-93) are only credited with one each. Still, in spite of this imbalance, there is much to enthuse about. Hoddinott's three sets of dances are punctuated by many jubilant and rambunctious moments, interspersed with others that are less bouncy but more reflective.

The Concerto Grosso #2 is a showcase of virtuosity while the "Jack Straw" overture dedicated to the 14th century English rebel has a baleful dramatic opening, but culminates with a vividly exciting climax. Mathias' "Celtic Dances" represent the musical characteristics of all four British countries and each piece evokes the mythological past of each nation, albeit in modern terms. Finally, Jones' "Dance Fantasy" is a short work but there is an air of stately grandeur about it. A certain lightness of touch also permeates this set of unbroken variations, which has become the composer's most performed work.

The playing is vibrant and committed, with orchestras and conductors excellent advocates of this brilliant but sadly neglected repertoire. A thrilling disc excellently annotated and remastered.

Copyright © 2009, Gerald Fenech