Thomas HEWITT JONES
Oculi Omnium (2010) [2:33]
Spirits of the Night - Shades of Grief (2010) [6:39]
Carnival (2010) [3:18]
Lady of the Lake - suite from the ballet (2010) [29:57]
Two Anthems (2011): Lead Me O Lord [2:50]; Drop Drop Slow Tears [2:41]
Sonata Cimarella for oboe and piano (2011) [8:41]
What Child is This? [3:49]
Voces 8 (Andrea Haines, Emily Dickens (soprano); Christopher Wardle, Barnaby Smith (counter-tenors); Charles MacDougall, Robert Smith (tenor); Paul Smith (baritone); Dingle Yandell (bass))
James Turnbull (oboe)
Eleanor Turner (harp)
Chamber Orchestra of London/composer
rec. no dates given, London. DDD
VIVUM VR37603 [60:15]
In 2003 Thomas Hewitt Jones was BBC Young Composer of the Year. Since then his profile has been low but going by this CD he has been far from unproductive. He has, to our benefit, stuck with composition especially in the fields of concert and commercial music.
After the sugary balance and sincerity of Oculi Omnium from a rather Swingle II-sounding Voces 8 we move to the solo harp and Spirits of the Night - Shades of Grief. It's a work that was written for, edited by and premiered by Eleanor Turner who introduced it on 30 January 2010 in Italy. For those steeped in British music its richly tapestried progress sounds quite like Bax mixed with the bardic associations inextricably bound up with the instrument. Delicacy is a given but so is the finery of drama and beauty. It's a work fully worthy to stand alongside the Grace Williams Hiraeth and William Mathias's Sonata.
There are euphoric facets to the harp work and they are a yet more candid presence in the New Agey and bouncingly feel-good Carnival for organ. It has all the marks of a British festival concert overture lacking only orchestration. We then have ten movements of the ballet Lady of the Lake. Thudding foot-tapping Graingerian jigs blend with minimalistic insistence straight out of the Nyman glossary. Howells-like pastorals appear with tangy harmonies. There's a gracious Rota-like canto, a dreamy flute-dominated movement, The Christening and a regretfully melancholic The Lady Returns. Some of the tracks in the closely recorded ballet suite are unpolished in the sense that editing has left in a speck of a word or a tuning or echo sound.
The Two Anthems: Lead Me O Lord and Drop Drop Slow Tears are broadly and sweetly in the Howells camp. The final piece on the disc is the carol What Child Is This? It has a golden melody which fleeting shares Finzi's topography; very much in the English lyrical tradition. All three really deserve to be taken up by cathedral choirs and as test-pieces for choral competitions. They are winningly written and recorded with breathy proximity.
The Sonata Cimarella is a mercurial humming-bird of a summer piece. Its hovering and lyrical career is both charming and touching.
On the down side the gaps between tracks are sometimes too short. We need time to collect our thoughts. The sung words are not printed in the somewhat frugal leaflet.
I wonder what happened to the Court Lane CD promised a few years ago. It was to have included Hewitt Jonesís Child of the Stable's Secret Birth [2:49], Under Milk Wood Ballet Suite (2008) [29:05], Four Piano Miniatures [10:03], String Music [12:10] and Fantasy for small ensemble [6:16].
You can read more about this composer at www.thomashewittjones.com.
For now this serves as a persuasive sampler of the music of Thomas Hewitt Jones. More would be very far from unwelcome.
A persuasive sampler of the music of Thomas Hewitt Jones. More would be very far from unwelcome.