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George DYSON (1883-1964)
At the Tabard Inn - Overture * (1943-46) [11:40]
Symphony in G† (1937) [44:16]
(I Energico [10:26]; II Andante [11:36]; III Allegro risoluto - Molto moderato [10:00]; IV Poco adagio - Andante [12:06])
In Honour of the City‡ (1928) [15:09]
London Symphony Chorus‡
London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox*‡
City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox†
Recorded in: All Saints' Church, Tooting, London, 5-6 March 1993 (Symphony in G); Blackheath Halls, London 30 September, 1, 4, 5 October 1996 (other works)
CHANDOS CHAN 10308X [71:28]

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Here we go: another reviving mid-price reissue from Chandos. This time we get a selection from their Dyson catalogue. After all, without their Dyson ‘chapters’ the gently-paced revival of this composer’s music would still be in first gear.

From their recording of the complete The Canterbury Pilgrims (CHAN 9531-2) we get Hickox's bibulous, vitality-soaked At the Tabard Inn. This is a rambunctious and touching piece acting as a large-scale introduction to and epitome of the musical material for the whole choral work. It is momentous and is given a superbly spirited ‘kick’ by Hickox. There is no trace of time-serving or routine. No wonder Stokowski described the piece as a masterpiece of characterisation after he had conducted a performance in 1949. There is a Vaughan Williamsy flavour here (the Tudor Portraits - - particularly The Tunning of Elinor Rumming) but it is far from the whole story. It can be delightfully Delian, perhaps closest in manner to the North Country Sketches. Waltonian-Elgarian and haughty, it is filmic and thunderously and orgiastically horn-lofted at the close.

Dyson wrote only one symphony. Make no mistake this a lanky big-boned piece lasting almost 45 minutes and written in 1937 when symphonies were flying from the pens of British composers. It rather lost its place in the melee and this recording has given it another chance and will continue to do so. The movements are: in turn, I a Straussian energico with some of the fantastic spindrift of an Elgar scherzo; II andante - subdued and the mood is not fully resolved; there is a slowly louring Beethovenian Eroica funeral march going on here as well as touch of serenade; III a burly Vaughan Williamsy concert grosso, heavy-footed dance music mixed with spindrift Elgarian ‘by the river’ stuff; III an allegro risoluto and IV a desperately serious poco adagio. This is searing and I thought touching on the Tchaikovsky Pathetique finale. The orchestra heaves up from time to time like an unquiet landscape rent by subterranean forces. Recollections of the Straussian first movement boil up in the final pages which here carry the accents of Elgar 2.

In Honour of the City gives us the choral Dyson in a quarter-hour celebratory piece using the same poem, William Dunbar's, as was later set by William Walton. It is a strong and stable vessel for the muscular surge of massed English choirs. The spirit mixes that of various joyous pieces: from Finzi's St Cecilia to Elgar's Cockaigne. There are the echoes of the Westminster chimes at 3.34; not for the last time either. Two years later the rum-ti-tum figuration at 10:48 was to find its way into the good-hearted optimism of the pilgrim's cavalcade in The Canterbury Pilgrims. Horns upward and bells fanfare out this joyous performance. The words are printed in full in the booklet.

This disc arrived days before Naxos’s Dyson newcomer. The Chandos is at midprice. The Naxos lacks the choral piece; instead offering the characterful Concerto da Chiesa for strings. Hickox’s LSO has a better upholstered recording and the LSO strings are not as lean as those of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. With the choral item the Chandos presents a more representative cross-section. David Lloyd-Jones brings out more of the intermittently Rimskian and Sibelian flavour of the symphony. I think you will be very happy with the Naxos but the Chandos has the air and tone of a luxury item.

Rob Barnett

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