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Jones piano SRCD2396
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Daniel Jones (1912-1993)
Rediscovered Piano Works
Martin Jones (piano)
rec. 2019-2021, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK
LYRITA SRCD2396 [4 CDs: 240]

Daniel Jones spoke of the act of composing as one of discovery - “what I’m setting myself to write already exists and that what I have to do is unveil it, discover it”. His lifelong dedication to music precluded any other work or “proper job”.

Born in Pembroke, he was raised in Swansea and lived there for most of his life. His parents were both musical. As a young boy at Swansea Grammar School he formed a close friendship with Dylan Thomas. Their joint poetic endeavours became a popular feature of the school magazine. Jones’ later MA thesis at University College, Swansea was on Elizabethan lyric poetry and its relationship to the music of the period. At the Royal Academy of Music he studied composition with Harry Farjeon and conducting with Sir Henry Wood. After the War he destroyed many early scores, and post-War decided to devote his life in earnest to composition.

Known for his orchestral, chamber and choral works, his piano music is less familiar. He regarded his pre-War piano works as experimental, precursors to his later, more important symphonic oeuvre. Yet, their depth and range shows he was a natural piano composer, highly skilled in writing in short forms.

There’s a fascinating account in the accompanying booklet on Martin Jones’ discovery of the composer’s piano works in the National Library Archive in Aberystwyth. Much of the music was found to be meticulously copied in neat handwriting, dated and even fingered. The music had lain neglected and unpublished for many years. All pre-War, it had been put to one side as the composer became “gripped with single-minded focus on writing Symphonies”.

Lyrita have interspersed shorter pieces with larger-scaled scores throughout the collection. The most substantial work is the five movement Sonata No. 6 in C sharp minor, penned in 1949. It reveals the composer’s classical leanings, being drawn to established and organized structures, examples being the symphony and string quartet. The Sonata here is a dramatic work, and Jones’ skill in counterpoint and fugal writing are very much in evidence. There’s an attractive Lento, deeply expressive and almost improvisatory. It’s followed by a sparkling Scherzo – Presto, underpinned by a motoric rhythm. A second hesitant-sounding slow movement precedes a five-voice fugue, dexterously put together and forming an impressive end. The other sizeable work is the Academic Suite (Suite No. 6 in E) from 1934. It’s cast in four movements. The second movement is an alluring Lento con grazia, proving Jones to be a natural melodist. He also had a sense of gripping contrast in the percussive Allegro Barbaro which follows. The work ends with a theme with eight well-constructed and varied variations.

Martin Jones brings the same devotion and care to the shorter pieces in the collection. There are several Preludes dating from the early 1930s. There’s an element on nonchalance and restraint in the Prelude in D minor (1933) which opens the set. The transient harmonic shifts inject more life into the D major Prelude from a year later, yet it’s the spiky and percussive C major from 1934 that’s my particular favorite. The pianist conjures some luminous sonorities in the Fantasia in B major. The E flat Fantasia begins innocuously enough, but soon builds up momentum and scale moving to coruscating virtuosity. The Romance in G minor (1943) is aptly described by Paul Conway as “harmonically wayward”. The composer takes a wistful glance backwards in the Lento malinconico from 1949.

In 1945 the composer wrote his Theme, Variations and Fugue in C sharp minor, undoubtedly his pièce de resistance. The score brims over with melodic, rhythmic and harmonic interest. Each variation is skilfully crafted. The second variation is a confident march embellished with clarion calls. The fifth variation contrasts with its innocent simplicity. A fugal finale calls time in spectacular fashion.

The works range from pleasantry to more profound and well-structured invention. It’s music which definitely deserves circulation and a hearing. Martin Jones advocacy and commitment, allied to the perfect piano sound make this hard to resist. Paul Conway's invaluable notes are the icing on the cake.

Stephen Greenbank

Academic Suite
Capriccio in E major
Caprices (3)
Concert Studies (2)
Fantasia in B major
Fantasia in E flat major
Fantasia in E flat minor
Lento malinconico
Old Pieces (3)
Prelude in C major
Prelude in D major
Prelude in D minor
Preludes (4)
Romance in G minor
Sonata no.6 in C sharp minor
Sonatina in A minor
Suite no.8 in B flat major
Thema con variazioni in D flat major
Theme, Variations and Fugue in C sharp minor

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