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Daniel JONES (1912-1993)
Symphony No. 4 (1954) [31:35]*
Symphony No. 7 (1972) [21:54]*
Symphony No. 8 (1972) [24:32]**
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Charles Groves*
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra/Bryden Thomson**
rec. 18-19 April 1972, Studio No. 1 Abbey Road, London (4, 7) originally released on EMI ASD 2855; 10-11 February 1979, BBC Llandaff originally released on BBC Regium REGL 359 (8). ADD
The original recordings with support from the Welsh Arts Council. CD transfer and re-mastering supported by the Arts Council of Wales.
LYRITA SRCD.329 [78.05]

Sound Sample
Excerpt Symphony 4(iii)




Daniel Jones wrote fourteen symphonies between 1944 and 1992. There are useful notes to this disc and they are, as usual, in English only. The writer Lyn Davies groups the symphonies into three groups: 1-5 (in the late-romantic tradition – the First plays for just short of an hour); 6-9 (characterised by structural experimentation); 10-13 (still tonal but minimalist in approach – concentrated and essential rather in the reduced manner of Alwyn 5 and Rubbra 10 and 11 though in a different soundworld).

The BBC have over the years broadcast two complete cycles of these symphonies from studio sessions in the 1950s-1990s. The conductors included Charles Groves, Erich Bergel, Bryden Thomson (not ‘Thompson’ as it is shown in the insert notes), Owain Arwel Hughes, Richard Hickox and John Carewe. I recall being first captivated by Jones’s symphonies through broadcasts, which I still have on tape, of the BBC Welsh conducted by the composer in symphonies 8 and 9. The Eighth made a particular and memorable impact on me and I approached this CD with high expectations.

The Fourth Symphony was a National Eisteddfod commission in memory of the composer’s friend Dylan Thomas. In fact Jones contributed a foreword to Thomas’s collected poems. Jones also provided the music for the famous Richard Burton broadcast of Under Milk Wood. The composer wrote about their relationship in the book: My Friend Dylan Thomas. The Symphony is in three substantial movements which project a sense of the epic, of the nostalgic and the tragic – the raw stuff of symphonies. It bears some resemblance to the style of William Alwyn especially in the finale. Lyn Davies refers to the work as the composer’s "‘Fern Hill’ Symphony where both composer and poet are ‘… young and easy in the mercy of his means’." The final bars bring us back to the wisp of a theme and the slow stutter of the opening movement.

The Seventh Symphony is in five movements though tracked as four – the last two share a track. It was an RPO commission. Its approach to tonality is comparatively conservative although the romantic tonality of the Fourth Symphony is moderated by a citrus edge with an effect similar to Rawsthorne’s orchestral style. That said there are still many extremely romantic episodes of a type which Rawsthorne would have avoided like the plague. The Scherzando makes playful use of xylophone and flashes along like a will o’ the wisp. The Solenne fourth movement and conjoined Con brio fifth open with a Bergian-sour note cell and then move directly into a forthright deeply romantic sighing statement for the strings. The work ends in jagged rhythmic angularity.

The Eighth Symphony is from the same year as the Seventh but was a commission for the Swansea Festival. It was written in memory of another of the composer’s close friends, the conductor Warwick Braithwaite who had died in 1971. That sense of the epic can be heard in the first of the five movements as well as Jones’ fascination with percussion sonorities – he wrote a sonata for three kettle drums. An orchestral piano and extensive percussion is deployed in the Scherzando with its dour yet powerful blend of Martinů and Walton. That piano returns again to help create a slow-wheeling vortex as well as moments of defiance in the Capriccioso. The penultimate Doloroso is superbly done with drum-roll under a thoughtful horn line and a dankly melancholy Moeran-like atmosphere. The finale is playful and then grasps triumph in the final F major blaze.

I hope that the release of this disc will prompt the Welsh cultural authorities to support recordings of the remaining unrecorded symphonies as well as the Cello Concerto broadcast by Tim Hugh in 1996 and the Violin Concerto championed by Ronald Thomas in 1980. Then there are other deserving works: The Cloud Messenger, Ieuneuctid Overture, Dobra Niva, Sinfonietta and Salute to Dylan Thomas. Jones’ Saint Peter oratorio also merits attention but then so does Arwel Hughes’ Dewi Sant.


Rob Barnett


Also Available on Lyrita

SRCD.326 Daniel Jones Symphonies Nos. 6, 9

 


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