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George DYSON (1883-1964)
Nebuchadnezzar for tenor, bass-baritone, chorus and orchestra (1934) [47:48]
Woodland Suite for strings and wind (flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon ad libitum) (1921) [7:22]
O Praise God in His Holiness for chorus and orchestra (Psalm 150) (1937) [2:12]
Three Songs of Praise for accompanied chorus (string orchestra, with two timpani, two trumpets and three trombones ad libitum) (1935) [9:54]
Confortare (Be Strong and of a good courage) for chorus and orchestra (1953) [1:37]
Mark Padmore (tenor); Neal Davies (bass-baritone); BBC Symphony Chorus; BBC Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox†
rec. Watford Colosseum (Town Hall), 18-19 November 2006. DDD. premiere recordings
CHANDOS CHAN10439 [68:57]
Experience Classicsonline

Dyson was very much the darling of the English choral traditionalists yet resisted its cloying excesses. He wrote music with sturdiness and brilliance and had a natural aptitude for the human voice.
An RCM student, his professor was Stanford who was so impressed that he dissuaded Dyson from studies at Leipzig. Instead he encouraged him to spend time in Italy which he did and from which period the tone poem Siena (unrecorded) emerged. After Italy he spent time in Vienna and Berlin where Nikisch included Siena in his concert programme. He served in the Great War and survived, though not unmarked by the experience. His Canterbury Pilgrims (Chandos CHAN9531) and other choral works including to a lesser degree Quo Vadis (see end of review for a list of Dyson recordings reviewed on this site) became enduring staples of cathedral and concert hall. By contrast the symphony and the violin concerto had their premieres and then languished; he had been pigeonholed as a choral man related in some inchoate way to the Stanford tradition. In fact his choral works show an imaginative updraft borne in from Continental influences and occasionally from Sibelius.
His Nebuchadnezzar is a very substantial piece marked by Waltonís blazingly imaginative Belshazzarís Feast from only three years previously. It sets words from The Book of Daniel and from Song of the Three Holy Children from The Apocrypha. The fall of the voices, both solo and occasionally choral, carry the Walton stigmata Ė emphasised by Dysonís use of words many of which were set by Walton as part of his 1931 masterpiece. However this has not sucked all the originality out of Dysonís inspiration as we can hear time after time. In the case of this work the sometimes gawky humour of Canterbury Pilgrims is absent. Instead Dyson often captures the Old Testament ferocity of the text avoiding any hint of Victorian fustian or rum-ti-tum miscalculation. There is an aggressive Orff-like edginess to Part II which contrasts with the ruggedly Elgarian power of the step-down finale of Part I. Poetry aplenty abounds in the sea-swell of Part III which also reminded me at 5:58 onwards of Holstís Choral Symphony of 1925. In the majestic exaltation of Part IV there are moments of familiarity if you know Vaughan Williamsí Benedicite. Itís a splendid work bursting with inspiration - brilliant and majestic.†
The little Woodland Suite comprises four movements in a light-hearted, gentle and poetic Coatesian vein. It only succumbs to jauntiness in the finale. The movements are At Evening Bell (Tranquillo); Silken Sails (Allegretto); Moon-Fairy (Andante); Elfin Market (Allegro).
The Three Songs of Praise include a suave and smooth Let all the world Ö, a cherishably lovely Ye that have spent the silent night in which the string writing is of the gentlest and a final Poetís Hymn which has the buoyancy of the start of At the Tabard Inn.
The two coronation anthems have the tradition and the manner down to a tee. Listen to the grandiloquence of O Praise God in His Holiness in which the horns roll over the contours of the choir in golden balance. Confortare is very short and is just slightly distanced from Vaughan Williams in style.
The complementary notes are by Lewis Foreman and Freeman Dyson and provide a balance of hard information, intrigue, humanity and fascination. The whole project which is magnificently performed throughout would not have happened without the support of the Sir George Dyson Trust. I look forward to later instalments including Siena.
Enthusiasts for the festive yet idiosyncratic mainstream of British choral music need look no further.
Rob Barnett
Reviews of other Dyson CDs
Choral music: Somm SOMMCD014
Quo Vadis
: Chandos CHAN10061
St Paul's Voyage: Somm SOMMCD234
Symphony: Chandos CHAN10308X, Naxos 8.557720
Violin Concerto: Chandos CHAN9369


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