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George DYSON (1883-1964)
In Honour of the City (1928) [14:27]
Sweet Thames, Run Softly (1955) [24:52]
A Spring Garland (1958) [14:17]
The Blacksmiths (1934) [13:43]
To Music [2:57]
Osian Ellis (harp); Stephen Roberts (baritone)
David Nettle; Richard Markham (pianos)
Royal College of Music Chamber Choir
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir David Willcocks
rec. All Saints Church, Tooting, April 1985 (In Honour of the City and Sweet Thames, Run Softly) and the Concert Hall, Royal College of Music, London, July 1987 (A Spring Garland, The Blacksmiths and To Music). DDD
SOMM SOMMCD014 [70:48]
Experience Classicsonline

George Dyson is another of those all-too-numerous British composers of the early twentieth century whose regard is not the equal of what his music deserves. Works such as Quo Vadis show tremendous skill and technical ability, as well as musical vision, imagination and innovation. The works on this Somm disc are much smaller than that masterpiece, but are nonetheless impressive in their own ways, and certainly delights to listen to.

The disc opens with the ‘fantasia’ In Honour of the City, a musical description of mediaeval London, with texts dating from the turn of the fifteenth/sixteenth century, by Dunbar. Here, David Willcocks with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir give the work a flamboyant performance, full of joy and panache, and suitably raucous. One felt that it was possibly slightly rushed towards the ending, but the swift pace is not otherwise to its detriment, but rather lends a further sense of high-spirits. 

Sweet Thames, Run Softly is a cantata setting of Spenser’s poem of 1596, Prothalamion, written in honour of double marriage of the Earl of Worcester’s two daughters, who sailed up the Thames to Temple to be married at the home of the Earl of Essex. It is an engaging, serene and radiantly beautiful piece, excellently played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Stephen Roberts is good as the solo baritone, with his powerful voice and splendid enunciation.

Spring Garland follows - a cycle of Herrick poems about rural life, that are here sung very gently and tenderly by an aptly mellifluous Royal College of Music Chamber Choir.

Dyson’s father was a blacksmith, and this setting of an anonymous fourteenth century mediaeval Middle English text, updated by Dyson and his wife, was dedicated to his father. Blacksmiths is a dramatic work, here given an enthusiastic performance that brings out the verve and energy of the work, yet it dies away to a gentle ending, when the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir sing tenderly, accompanied by translucent strings from the RPO. Beautiful.

The disc concludes with To Music – another Herrick setting. This is a lovely ending to a thoroughly enjoyable disc, with some excellent part-singing from the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir.

Good performances of works that should be heard more frequently.

Em Marshall


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