Author Topic: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)  (Read 7359 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« on: March 16, 2008, 01:42:55 AM »
I have just listened to Dyson's "Nebuchadnezzar" (1934), which despite an opening disconcertingly like Walton's "Belshazzar's Feast" soon moves in a different direction. Dyson writes in a conservative early 20th century idiom but I am increasingly enjoying his music. Although not as instantly memorable as the Walton score, Dyson's Nebuchadnezzar is, in my view, a deeper work which takes longer to give up its secrets. In view of the dates of its composition and its theme of Jewish persecution, I wondered if it related to the time of its composition, although the booklet notes make no mention of this.

Dyson's epic "Quo Vadis" although rather long-winded places has one of the most moving conclusions of any work known to me.

Dyson's Symphony is a fine work in the Vaughan Williams/Moeran tradition.

Anyway, I'm sure that there are plenty of other Dyson fans out there keen to share their views (haha).
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2008, 07:59:04 AM »
Dyson has been incredibly fortunate in having almost all of his orchestral and choral compositions recorded for CD. By my estimate, only his Cantatas "Sweet Thames, run softly"(1954) and "A Christmas Garland"(1959) remain to be put on disc.

In addition to the works you recommended I would mention the Chandos CD coupling the Concerto Leggiero for piano and string orchestra, the Concerto da Camera for String Orchestra and the Concerto da Chiesa for String Orchestra(all very much in the tradition of excellent British string music), the big Cantata "The Canterbury Pilgrimas"(coupled on Chandos with "In Honour of the City"-another work also set by Walton ten years after Dyson) and the Cantatas  "St. Paul's Voyage to Melita" and "Agincourt" on a Somm CD conducted by Vernon Handley.

I prefer David Lloyd-Jones's version of the Symphony on Naxos to that by Richard Hickox on Chandos. (Lloyd-Jones is currently doing a great job for British music in the studio. The former boss of a symphony orchestra once told me that Lloyd-Jones was a 'bit dull' as a conductor to hire. Well-that certainly doesn't come over in the CDs he has conducted!)

One question which intrigues me....why wasn't Dyson made Master of the King's Music in 1941 when Walford Davies died? Sir Arnold Bax was the successor. Now, lots of people on here admire Bax enormously but by 1941 Bax had more or less 'run dry'(there was a brief resurgence of inspiration in the late 1940s) and he was not really the ideal man for the sort of music required of the Master of the King's Music. Dyson would have been ideal. His short, ceremonial choral works are just what was needed for big state occasions. I have seen comment on the strange choice of Malcolm Williamson for the job after Bliss died but not about the choice of Bax in 1942.
Good subject for a (short) book?

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2008, 08:33:57 AM »
Dyson has been incredibly fortunate in having almost all of his orchestral and choral compositions recorded for CD. By my estimate, only his Cantatas "Sweet Thames, run softly"(1954) and "A Christmas Garland"(1959) remain to be put on disc.

In addition to the works you recommended I would mention the Chandos CD coupling the Concerto Leggiero for piano and string orchestra, the Concerto da Camera for String Orchestra and the Concerto da Chiesa for String Orchestra(all very much in the tradition of excellent British string music), the big Cantata "The Canterbury Pilgrimas"(coupled on Chandos with "In Honour of the City"-another work also set by Walton ten years after Dyson) and the Cantatas  "St. Paul's Voyage to Melita" and "Agincourt" on a Somm CD conducted by Vernon Handley.

I prefer David Lloyd-Jones's version of the Symphony on Naxos to that by Richard Hickox on Chandos. (Lloyd-Jones is currently doing a great job for British music in the studio. The former boss of a symphony orchestra once told me that Lloyd-Jones was a 'bit dull' as a conductor to hire. Well-that certainly doesn't come over in the CDs he has conducted!)

One question which intrigues me....why wasn't Dyson made Master of the King's Music in 1941 when Walford Davies died? Sir Arnold Bax was the successor. Now, lots of people on here admire Bax enormously but by 1941 Bax had more or less 'run dry'(there was a brief resurgence of inspiration in the late 1940s) and he was not really the ideal man for the sort of music required of the Master of the King's Music. Dyson would have been ideal. His short, ceremonial choral works are just what was needed for big state occasions. I have seen comment on the strange choice of Malcolm Williamson for the job after Bliss died but not about the choice of Bax in 1942.
Good subject for a (short) book?

Thanks. Yes, Dyson would have been a much better choice for Master of the King's Music after the death of Walford Davies. I have the other Dyson CDs you mention. At the moment I am really enjoying Nebuchadnezzar, finding something of interest in each listening. Do you know it?
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2008, 08:35:08 AM »
I prefer David Lloyd-Jones's version of the Symphony on Naxos to that by Richard Hickox on Chandos.

Okay - that will be my first Dyson CD.
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2008, 09:01:27 AM »
Okay - that will be my first Dyson CD.

Good choice! And you will get the really splendid Concerto da Chiesa on that disc as well.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2008, 09:09:34 AM »
Thanks. Yes, Dyson would have been a much better choice for Master of the King's Music after the death of Walford Davies. I have the other Dyson CDs you mention. At the moment I am really enjoying Nebuchadnezzar, finding something of interest in each listening. Do you know it?

Yes, Nebuchadnezzar is a good piece; much tauter than 'Quo Vadis', a work which, I have to admit, rather tried my patience-it does have some lovely moments but also some longuers. There is nothing quite so obviously dramatic in Nebuchadnezzar as in Walton's Belshazzar's Feast but it is a extremely fine example of the sort of big choral work which used to adorn the Three Choirs Festival in the first half of the last century.

As I have said before on this forum, I can't quite understand why-given the revival of the major choral compositions of VW, Howells and Dyson on CD-the comparable works by Bliss haven't enjoyed the same exposure.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2008, 11:50:37 AM »
Yes, Nebuchadnezzar is a good piece; much tauter than 'Quo Vadis', a work which, I have to admit, rather tried my patience-it does have some lovely moments but also some longuers. There is nothing quite so obviously dramatic in Nebuchadnezzar as in Walton's Belshazzar's Feast but it is a extremely fine example of the sort of big choral work which used to adorn the Three Choirs Festival in the first half of the last century.

As I have said before on this forum, I can't quite understand why-given the revival of the major choral compositions of VW, Howells and Dyson on CD-the comparable works by Bliss haven't enjoyed the same exposure.

"Morning Heroes" comes to mind but which other Bliss works do you mean?
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2008, 12:55:50 PM »
"Morning Heroes" comes to mind but which other Bliss works do you mean?

Cantata "The Beatitudes" for soprano, tenor, chorus, orchestra and organ(1961)-50 minutes long, composed for the opening of the new
   Coventry Cathedral but given far too little rehearsal time because most of the attention was given to Britten's War Requiem, not
   actually premiered in the cathedral itself but in a cramped theatre and has never been heard in the building for which it was conceived.

Cantata "Mary of Magdala" for contralto, bass, chorus and orchestra(1962)-27 minutes long, commissioned by the City of Birmingham
    Symphony Orchestra

The Golden Cantata for tenor, chorus and orchestra(1964)-25 minutes long

Substantial choral works indeed but obviously the priority would be 'The Beatitudes'! The description of the work on the Chester Novello website suggests that there are a lot of lovers of British music who would love to hear this work.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2008, 01:40:08 PM »
Thanks Colin,

Must look out for that.

Jeffrey
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2008, 01:41:02 PM »
I just listened to Dyson's Symphony in G major. It is very delicately orchestrated, with lovely writing for, especially, the woodwind. I detect only a slight influence of Sibelius and, even less strongly, Delius (last movement). There is great rhythmic vitality. I don't hear it as a symphony, though, but as a suite, because the music sounds so light and pictorial, and because I don't (yet) hear an overarching idea behind the whole work. The second movement is haunting from the first bar. And the Finale starts off very movingly and seriously.

I short - I enjoy Dyson.

P.S. The second movement theme reminds me of a Chopin nocturne.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2008, 11:58:02 PM by Jezetha »
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2008, 02:07:08 PM »
This is the only Dyson recording I own (unless there is an LP or two hidden and forgotten in my uncatalogued record collection).



I bought it after reading a rave review sometime in the mid-90s (I no longer recall what publication). It's a gorgeous piece, full of that appealing, sweet melancholy the British do so well. This is a substantial concerto (four movements, over 43 minutes in length). The first movement is unusual in that the soloist doesn't play during the first three minutes and when he finally enters, plays a theme that sounds private, intensely personal as if the violinist were communing with himself.

Sarge
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he was as f*cked-up as you are."
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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2008, 08:35:22 PM »
I have the Naxos disc with the symphony, overture & Concerto da Chiesa. Definitely the one to own (if you only have one). They're all really fine works, only proviso being the final movement of the symphony, which for me doesn't really hang together.

I also have a 2-disc set of orchestral stuff conducted by Hickox on Chandos, which also contains the Concerto da Chiesa. This record doesn't match the Lloyd-Jones on Naxos - it sounds too "soppy", for want of a better word. Too much vibrato, too much hall reverb, not enough guts.

Offline schweitzeralan

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2009, 08:20:39 PM »
Recently I acquired the Symphony in G by English composer George Dyson. From the little information I got was that he was the son of the famous physicist and cosmologist Freemon Dyson. I have yet to become more familiar with the Symphony. The one critic who posted a review admired the work and claimed it was very much in the same league as the Moeran Symphony in G, written during the same year, I do believe. Quite English in conception with dramatic impact throughout.  Anyone else familiar with Dyson's work?  I don't think he was particularly prolific.  He's a new one for me.  At this point, after just two listenngs, I very much hesitate to acknowledge his Symphony on an equal basis as that of Moeran's memorable work, which is a  genuine masterpiece. 

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2009, 11:24:01 PM »
Recently I acquired the Symphony in G by English composer George Dyson. From the little information I got was that he was the son of the famous physicist and cosmologist Freemon Dyson. I have yet to become more familiar with the Symphony. The one critic who posted a review admired the work and claimed it was very much in the same league as the Moeran Symphony in G, written during the same year, I do believe. Quite English in conception with dramatic impact throughout.  Anyone else familiar with Dyson's work?  I don't think he was particularly prolific.  He's a new one for me.  At this point, after just two listenngs, I very much hesitate to acknowledge his Symphony on an equal basis as that of Moeran's memorable work, which is a  genuine masterpiece. 

I agree with you (and if you read the review on Amazon UK, I think it was written by me!) But, I find Dyson's Symphony to be an endearing English work and oddly moving in its 1940 context. The end of his massive choral work Quo Vadis is very moving, but the work itself is rambling. The Naxos CD of the Symphony is coupled with a lovely concerto and I like his choral work Nebuchadnezzar (it starts like Walton's Belshezzar's Feast - but is a less dramatic and, I think, deeper work). Dyson's Violin Concerto is probably the one to investigate after the symphony.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2009, 05:29:58 AM »
I don't think Dyson's symphony is in the same league as Moeran's, either. All the same, I really love the work. I still have to listen to the Violin Concerto (Chandos), so I can't yet tell you how I rate it...
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline schweitzeralan

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2009, 05:34:41 AM »
I agree with you (and if you read the review on Amazon UK, I think it was written by me!) But, I find Dyson's Symphony to be an endearing English work and oddly moving in its 1940 context. The end of his massive choral work Quo Vadis is very moving, but the work itself is rambling. The Naxos CD of the Symphony is coupled with a lovely concerto and I like his choral work Nebuchadnezzar (it starts like Walton's Belshezzar's Feast - but is a less dramatic and, I think, deeper work). Dyson's Violin Concerto is probably the one to investigate after the symphony.

Thanks for your reply. It appears you are most knowledgeable in the musical discipline in terms of range and structure.  Vast.  I ordered the Dyson work on Amazon, and the reviewer was J. Scott Morrison, who very much liked the symphony.  Personally I sensed a few good moments, but overall I don't agree that it compares in originality, strength, (nor as Sibelian, a going thing with me),in dramatic effect, depth, et. al.which inhabit the Moeran.  I haven't "tested" the second recording as of yet; viz, the Concerto.  You mentioned Walton.  I like his 1st Symphony very much. I'm not familiar with Belshezzer's Feast, despite it's apparent popularity among the cognoscenti.

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2009, 05:40:06 AM »
I'm not familiar with Belshazzar's Feast, despite it's apparent popularity among the cognoscenti.

I am addressing this lack at the moment (i.e. uploading it).
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2009, 05:44:05 AM »
I just love Belshazzar! It's one of those notes which hit me between the eyes when I was young. First note to last and every note in between seems to me to work so spectacularly well. One would never know Walton had had to pause for a few months at (IIRC) 'Praise ye the god of...................[compositional hiatus]..................Gold!', because (for me) this is one of those rare works where everything seems to have been there forever. Maybe it's just that I first heard it at an impressionable age....

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2009, 05:58:10 AM »


Soloist: William Stone
Orchestra: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Conductor: Robert Shaw

http://www.mediafire.com/?wcqzzl5jcjn
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Sir George Dyson (1883-1964)
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2009, 06:49:53 AM »
You know I am really becoming quite cross with the way in which Sir William Walton's music seems to invade threads about other composers! First it was the 1st Symphony which derailed two separate threads temporarily and now it is 'Belshazzar's Feast'.

You guys ought to stop this ::)

(Don't take any of that seriously btw ;D ;D Just very occasionally I miss being a schoolteacher ;D)

Ok....back to Sir George Dyson :)

He was not the son of the physicist Freeman Dyson. That gentleman, born in 1923, is in fact the composer's son.
Sir George came from a relatively humble background as the son of a blacksmith in Halifax, Yorkshire(the same sort of unprivileged background as Elgar, Havergal Brian, Rubbra and, though I hesitate to mention the name ;D,  Walton.). Despite this, he rose to eminence in the world of musical education as Director of Music in succession at the Royal Naval College, Osborne and at Marlborough, Wellington and Winchester-three of the top British boys' boarding(public=private!) schools. Dyson crowned his illustrious career as Director of the Royal College of Music in London.

I suppose that it is true to say that he was not as prolific a composer as some others but he did write a considerable amount of choral and church music in addition to the Symphony in G, the Violin Concerto, the Concerto Leggiero for Piano and String Orchestra, the Concerto da Camera for String Orchestra and the Concerto da Chiesa for String Orchestra.

The Symphony has been recorded by both Richard Hickox for Chandos and David Lloyd-Jones for Naxos. I prefer the Lloyd-Jones, to be honest; one occasion on which Hickox seems less committed. If you buy the Naxos version then you get the Concerto da Chiesa as well but better to get all three string works on the excellent Chandos disc where Hickox is on better form.

The big choral works are splendid examples of the traditional British cantata. Jeffrey has mentioned "Quo Vadis"-which has some impressive passages but which is certainly too long-but I agree with him that 'Nebuchadnezzar' is a better work. The other rousing cantatas are the big(but not too long this time!) "The Canterbury Pilgrims"-Hickox on fine choral form on the Chandos discs coupled with "In Honour of the City"(Dyson's setting of the William Dunbar poem also set later by a younger composer whose first name was William ;D) and  "St. Paul's Voyage to Melita" coupled with "Agincourt"(Vernon Handley on the Somm label).

There is nothing about Dyson's music which is in any way ground-breaking. He was following in a very British tradition, but his music is well-fashioned and throughly enjoyable.


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