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
See a rather different review by David Wright