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Alun HODDINOTT (b. 1929)
Dives and Lazarus, Op. 39a (1965) [14’38]. Viola Concertino, Op. 14b (1958) [21’56]. Nocturnes and Cadenzas, Op. 62c (1969) [20’59]. Sinfonia Fidei, Op. 95d (1977) [20’24]
aFelicity Palmer, dJill Gomez (sopranos); dStuart Burrows (tenor); aThomas Allen (baritone); bCsaba Erdélyi (viola); cMoray Welsh (cello); aWelsh National Opera Chorus; abNew Philharmonia Orchestra/David Atherton; Philharmonia dChorus and cdOrchestra/ Sir Charles Groves.
Rec. dates unknown. abADD/cdDDD

This CD is complementary to SRCD331, a Lyrita disc that includes three of Hoddinott’s symphonies. Here two choral works flank two pieces for soloist and orchestra.

The Britten-ish cantata Dives and Lazarus acts as a dynamic opener to the programme, not least because of the Welsh National Opera Chorus’s keen and dynamic response to Hoddinott’s skilled writing. The work itself is superbly crafted. fully in the choral tradition of the British Isles, with a strong sense of drama. The soloists, Felicity Palmer and Thomas Allen, are well matched, an exposed section for just the two of them beginning at 10’30 confirms just how true this statement is. Both this piece and the Viola Concertino were originally to be found on Argo ZRG824.

If anything, the Sinfonia Fidei of 1977 is even more impressive. Set in three movements, Latin words as opposed to English, this time, Hoddinott employs glowing harmonies and sometimes glittering scoring to great effect. The first movement, ‘Sequentia de Sancto Michaele’, has a distinctly ritualistic feeling about it. The entry of the soloists, a lovely moment, is carefully and effectively prepared by Hoddinott. Throughout, Jill Gomez is radiant. Perhaps it is the moments of greatest delicacy that are most memorable (in ‘Ave Maris Stella’, the second movement), yet this is not to demean the very close of the work, which exudes a haunting sense of stillness.

The Viola Concertino, dating from 1958 and written for Cecil Aronowitz, is the earliest work on the disc. It opens with a Nocturne, but an uneasy one. An agile Allegro molto forms contrast, but it appears that Hoddinott is happiest evoking sweet crepuscular pangs of regret – something that fits the viola like a glove. The violist here, Csaba Erdélyi, seems entirely at home. Of almost equivalent length, the Nocturnes and Cadenzas for Cello and Orchestra dates from around a decade later. Moray Welsh is here the experienced soloist in this mysterious and powerful score (try the elegiac first cadenza) in a performance that was originally on Unicorn Kanchana RHD401. The presence of two top-rank soloists ensures the success of these performances; both conductors are experienced accompanists and shadow their charges effectively when required.

Equipped with both this disc and with the Hoddinott Symphonies, you will be ideally poised to appreciate many aspects of this composer’s art. Hearing this music, the thought repeatedly came to mind that Hoddinott is due some sort of reappraisal.

Colin Clarke

The Lyrita catalogue

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