Most of the music on the disc is by Derek Bell, playing for a total of 63:49
by comparison with Beinsa Dunsos 8:36. Bell is the harpist of the
world-famous group The Chieftains. He is also a fine pianist, cimbalom and
dulcimer player. He has three piano sonatas and two symphonies to his name
along with much else. After hearing the second I am extremely interested
in hearing the first and indeed his other works. The style he adopts is not
difficult or overly modernistic.
The Variations and Musical Quotations (1985) are difficult to approach.
Not that the music is at all challenging. It is a strange confection which
I find unsatisfactory though you can applaud the exhortation to the positive
forward-looking direction of Northern Ireland. The piece quotes extensively
from Schumanns Symphony No. 4. The drums: bodhran and Lambeg representing
the contrasting Irish cultures also feature. This is an occasional piece
and this track is valuable as a memento of the occasion rather than something
I personally would want to return to very often.
The cheeky, chummy and slightly boozy Divertissement (1977) sounds
like a cross between Mozart, Dvorák and Malcolm Arnold. Good companionable
occasional music. A work which any ensemble looking to ring the changes would
do well to look out.
The Toccata Burlesca (1958) for oboe and piano is determinedly busy
at first but from the first entry of the oboe the atmosphere changes to a
plaintive serenade. Sometimes it suggested a French twentieth century romantic
ballet. The overtones of Malcolm Arnold are also there again.
The symphony is a major edifice deploying large orchestra, organ, piano,
mixed chorus and harp. It is in five sections. The first opens with a grim
set to the jaw but at 1:05 relaxes into a serenade-like song. The notes indicate
an inspiration linked deeply into Rosicrucian mysticism. However the French
atmosphere is what predominates with hints of Dvorák again but with
a dash of Boieldieu (Harp Concerto), Arnold, William Alwyn (Lyra Angelica)
and Schubert. The second movement (Invocation of Pan) uses the solo
harp very prominently and attractively. There is a sense of lofty emotions,
joy and attainment in the choral finale but the music is not as striking
as the avowed programme. This work is heavily programmed with grand themes
which sound worthy of Scriabin at his most mystical and ambitious. The music
would have benefited from the notes being less explicit. The listener would
perhaps do well to hear the music without the possible distraction of the
The final clutch of four little compositions by Douno are pleasing but have
not struck me as more than that.
The booklet is in English only and contain full notes on the music and the
people involved in this fascinating production.
The profits of sale are being donated by Athene to support and encourage
children in Bulgaria.
There is much to enjoy here but the pleasures are low key. Nevertheless there
is something about that symphony which intrigues me and I would very much
like to hear more by Bell who is not afraid to write in an idiom which suits
him rather than seeks after originality or the shock of yesterdays
A rather different review by David Wright
Derek Bell is the harpist with The Chieftains. Everyone tells me that he
is a most congenial man. He is evidently a fine harpist.
But he is no composer.
The proceeds of the sale of this disc are to aid a charity called The
Grain of Wheat which seeks to give musical therapy to young orphans in Bulgaria
... a noble cause.
But the music on this disc is simply ghastly.
The first item Variations: Come on, Northern Ireland, come on is appalling
music; it is really that bad. And it contains a quotation of over a hundred
bars from Schumann's Symphony No 4. Why? It is 'spiced up' with Irish
drums and is so ludicrous that it is embarrassing.
The Divertissement on a tune kindly contributed by Dr Paddy Moloney
is another inane title and, again, the music is so poor that one wonders
how anyone would want to play it let alone record it. The Toccata
burlesca fares a little better but it also lacks purpose, sense and
And we come to the Symphony No 2 which lasts for thirty minutes but
it seems an eternity. It is so utterly devoid of any redeeming features;
it is suicidally boring.
Enter Linda, a clinical psychologist.
"Shall I open the bottle of Teachers now?" she asks.
"No," I reply, "but some black coffee would be welcome."
And it is.
The pieces by Beinsa Duono, a mystic Bulgarian, (1864-1944) are slight and
of no consequence.
"Shall we extend this evening of misery?" she enquires. "Let's put on the
Elgar Cello Concerto, a late Piano Sonata by Schubert, some
waltzes by Johann Strauss and then Elton John and the Sex Pistols ..."
I thank her for her kind suggestion but make another. She smiles radiantly
and with approval.
The music on this disc is appalling, shockingly bad and tedious. It is not
music to die for but music that needs a Government Health Warning.
Simply dreadful. Unbearable.