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Dream Tryst: Part-Songs by Holst and Dyson
George DYSON (1883-1964)
Three Songs of Courage (1935) [8:52]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
Welsh Folk Songs (1930-1931) [9:36]
George DYSON (1883-1964)
Lauds (1935) [4 :12]
Nocturne (1960) [3 :43] *
To Music (1919) [2:41]
The Moon [3:11] *
I Loved a Lass (1919) [3:23] *
Gustav HOLST
Love is Enough (1897) [3:09] *
Five part-Songs (1899-1903) [13:03]
Godwine Choir, Matthew Jorysz (organ) / Alex Davan Wetton & Edward Hughes
rec. 2017, St. Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, UK
Texts and notes included.
* premiere recordings

‘Dream Tryst’ is the name of the first of Holst’s Five Part-songs Op. 12, and this entire disc, ably sung by the Godwine Choir, is filled with part-songs, unison songs, and arrangements-all works written or arranged with amateur choirs in mind.

The earliest work on the disc is a world premiere recording, Holst’s ‘Love is Enough’, written in the composer’s early twenties. The song is quite effective, with a real sense of movement-well-brought out by Edward Hughes. The Op. 12 Part-songs date from 1899-1902 and are contemporaneous with the symphonic poem Indra. They show the composer still bound by the conventions of the form but with personal traits beginning to emerge when Holst is truly inspired by the text. In ‘Dream Tryst’ Holst creates a rapt atmosphere in a conventional format while ‘Ye Little Birds ‘is amusingly picturesque. ‘Her Eyes the glow-worm lend thee’ was not published until Imogen Holst edited the piece in the 1980’s and completed the music for the second stanza of Herrick’s poem. It is the most interesting of the five songs ands shows Holst moving towards a greater complexity of thought. The well-known words to ‘Now Is the month of maying’ draw only a conventional response from the composer but the words of Christina Rossetti (as they did in ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’) produce a fine end to the set, deeply felt and harmonically complex. This and the incomplete (in 1903) ‘Her Eyes the glow-worm lend thee’ when compared with the other songs are almost a lesson in Holst’s musical development.

Thirty years later Holst had progressed through the various stages of his development to a final “tender austerity” as he put it. In 1930 he was approached to set some Welsh folksongs and perhaps as a change from working on the Choral Fantasia and Hammersmith, arranged twelve. Four are recorded here, including ‘Lisa Lan’, the composer’s favorite of the set and a text he truly makes his own. ‘Green Grass’ shows Holst enjoying himself while in ‘The Nightingale and Linnet’ Holst’s arrangement becomes progressively more tragic. ‘The Lively Pair’ shows his humorous side.

While Holst spent many years teaching at Morley College and the St. Paul’s School, Sir George Dyson pursued an educational career at several famous public schools before becoming President of the Royal College of Music in 1937. This inspired him to write a number of unison songs for boys and he harmonized and orchestrated three of them as Three Songs of Courage, published in 1935 (the accompaniment here played on the organ). The first ‘Valour’ (review) and the third ‘Reveille’ are conventionally stirring. However, ‘The Seekers’, perhaps because of its idealistic text, elicits a noble and heartfelt response from Dyson. ‘Lauds’ (review ~ review), from Dyson’s (also 1935) Three Songs of Praise is serene and reassuring. You would also do well to read John Quinn’s Overview of Dyson Recordings.

The four remaining Dyson works include three world premiere recordings. ‘To Music’ and ‘The Moon’ date from 1919 and were written directly as part-songs. The former is a beautiful setting of Herrick (several of the texts used by Dyson for the works on this disc show the composer’s interest in seventeenth-century poetry) with a fascinating final cadence. ‘I Loved a Lass’ is merely charming. Very different is ‘The Moon’, composed while Dyson was Director at the Royal College of Music and valiantly maintaining the College in London during World War II. This is a very chromatic work, constantly shifting in mood before a final musical and emotional resolution. In his mid-seventies Dyson produced ‘Nocturne’ – appropriately austere and autumnal, a masterpiece of word-setting.

The Godwine Choir was founded by Alex Davan Wetton and Edward Hughes, both of whom have careers outside music. On this disc Davan Wetton conducts the Holst works and Hughes the Dyson. Davan Wetton elicits excellent intonation and maintains precise tempi. My only complaint is that there is such distinct separation of the individual parts (usually a virtue) that it is occasionally distracting. Hughes produces a more blended sound but both conductors show excellent control over their forces. For the Godwines I have nothing but praise – their sound is beautiful and they demonstrate real understanding of the texts. They are ably accompanied by Matthew Jorysz in some of the Dyson pieces. I’m sure we’ll be hearing again from this choir and it’s two conductors-there’s plenty of un-recorded music that EMR could set them to.

William Kreindler