Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

GEORGE DYSON (1883-1964)
In Honour of the City
Sweet Thames Run Softly
A Spring Garland
The Blacksmiths
To Music

David Nettle and Richard Markham (pianos)
Osian Ellis (harp)
Stephen Roberts (bar)
RCM Chamber Choir
RPO/Sir David Willcocks
rec 1985-87, London
SOMM Celeste series SOMMCD014 [70.14]

At one time Unicorn was the home of Dyson's music long before Chandos became the composer's supreme advocate. Somm have revived those early LPs and grateful we are to have the reminder.

In Honour of the City is celebratory like Finzi's St Cecilia. It is heavier of tread than the Walton setting but, balancing that, there is a trumpeting touch of Delian ecstasy in the singing. At 3.58 green marine depths are evoked, perhaps reflecting London, the great port. The works ends with a stuttering blaze of trumpets.

Dyson, the public orator, now takes garden-leave giving way to a more yielding poet's inspiration in Sweet Thames Runs Softly. A simple Delian flux is present reflecting the spirit of Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music. The harp is revealingly recorded with Dyson's richly undulant melody and muscular luxury in evidence as in the more placid pages of RVW's Dona Nobis Pacem. The singing of the words 'Sweet Thames run softly' repeatedly sung by the baritone at 17.40 is music you can warm your hands over.

A Spring Garland: After the rich Dundee we return to the crystal streams in which four-square settings charm the birds from the trees. Osian Ellis is quite at ease here.

The Blacksmiths is music rumpled by taciturn grumbling, corrugated hammering and recoil and the flying of smithereens. The Bartokian clinker and clangour relents to allow in an extraordinary central European peace. This is a most arresting piece showing Dyson as a true original.

The Bluebird-like To Music is not complex. It is reliant on the quality of melody as in A Spring Garland but here garnished with the variety of mixed voices.

Roll on the next disc to be issued. Can we hope for the Cello and Orchestra triptych (intriguingly recorded in cello and piano version by Continuum and one movement of which was included in the Julian Lloyd Webber English collection on Philips)? The more ambitious hopes lie in the direction of Nebuchadnezzar and St Paul's Journey to Melita. However, above all, and of comparable stature with Goossens' Apocalypse, Foulds' World Requiem and Bantock's Omar, is Dyson's Quo Vadis. We need a recording of this.

A very good disc to place with your Chandos Dyson collection.

Rob Barnett

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