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Daniel Jones(1912-93)-a prolific Welsh symphonist

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My 2000th Thread :)

The most prolific British composer of symphonies was easily Havergal Brian with 32 to his name but in second place among the significant figures of the 20th century was the Welshman Daniel Jones. Jones wrote 12 numbered symphonies between 1945 and 1985 and a thirteenth, the Symphony In Memory of John Fussell in 1992, one year before he died. ( For the record-George Lloyd 12, Rubbra and Simpson 11, Hoddinott 10).

Jones was the senior figure in Welsh music of his time and a very fine composer of serious, tonal but sometimes quite 'tough' music. In 1935 he formulated the concept of 'complex metres', in which complex rhythmic patterns are created by irregular metres repeated in regular patterns. The unusual and subtle movement thus created was studied and mathematically developed in Germany by the musicologist and composer Boris Blacher who further adapted the concept of 'variable metres' in his compositions of the 1940s.

The twelve numbered symphonies are remarkable in that each one has a different tonal centre, one for each of the twelve notes. There is an almost Nordic seriousness and sense of organic growth in these symphonies which remind me of a composer like Vagn Holmboe in Denmark(an almost exact contemporary of Jones). These are not 'light' works but have a rather sombre character which I find very appealing :)

Unfortunately only five of the thirteen have been committed to disc but these five do give a pretty good indication of the Jones soundworld. I had hoped that Chandos might have embarked on a cycle with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales while the late Richard Hickox was its Principal Conductor but this never happened(and now never will) :( There is, however, a Chandos box set of the equally impressive eight String Quartets.

Jones was a lifelong friend of the poet Dylan Thomas, wrote the music for the classic and unforgettable BBC Radio production in 1954 of 'Under Milk Wood' with the young Richard Burton, dedicated his 4th Symphony to Thomas, and wrote a biography of the great poet.
One of his most impressive shorter choral pieces is the Cantata 'The Country Beyond the Stars', which uses the words of the famous mystical poet, Henry Vaughan.

It is probably because Jones spent most of his life in South Wales-although he studied in London and continental Europe before World War Two-that he has not received the recognition he deserves. Jones is a British composer to be placed on a par with Alwyn, Rubbra, Berkeley, Rawsthorne and Simpson. I recommend the two Lyrita discs with all possible enthusiasm!

Lilas Pastia:
I've proselytized in these pages for the string quartets, as good a corpus as any in the second half of last century. I have those two Lyrita discs of the symphonies as well, but they've been patiently waiting for months in the long new discs queue. I'll bump them up for a listen. :D

As an aside, be sure to check out Jones's contemporary, William Mathias (1934-1992), a leading Welsh composer, whose major works have been recorded by Nimbus and Lyrita. Some info:

Since I enjoy the music of Alwyn, Rubbra, Berkeley, Rawsthorne, Simpson, Holmboe and Hoddinott I should enjoy Jones. I thought about exploring his works anyway, so now I have the encouragement.

J.Z. Herrenberg:

--- Quote from: Dundonnell on January 16, 2009, 07:23:43 PM ---My 2000th Thread :)
--- End quote ---

My belated congratulations, Colin! Your contributions have really added a lot of quality to this Forum!

See you soon(ish)!


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