Welsh Classical Favourites

A charming collection of Welsh orchestral works that deserves exposure, especially in such genial performances

Author: 
Ivan March

Welsh Classical Favourites

  • Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes
  • Solemn Melody
  • Primavera Overture
  • Pastorale
  • Folksong Suite
  • Aladdin
  • Serenade
  • (A) Gwent Suite
  • Fanfare Overture

The great Welsh vocal and choral heritage famously stretches way, way, back into the mists of medieval musical history. Only in the 20th century has there been an orchestral tradition, so Welsh folk melodies have not received the concert-hall exposure, in orchestral garb, of comparable English tunes. Then in 1940 Grace Williams completed her Fantasia, using eight very winning homespun ideas, arranging them into a kind of pot-pourri (a little like Roger Quilter's A Children's Overture uses nursery rhymes), deliciously scored, whimsical, touching and light-hearted by turns. Walford Davies had preceded her in the 1930s and he left us the gorgeous hymn-like Solemn Melody.
Trevor Roberts's delicate Pastorale readily evokes Pembrokeshire but has something of Butterworth and Vaughan Williams in its fragile atmosphere, with a lovely oboe solo and a passionate string climax. Alun Hoddinott's very winning Folksong Suite is also lightly scored, and utterly charming. Mervyn Burtch's Aladdin overture (not incidental music) has a lurching, syncopated main theme of considerable character and Gareth Walters' vigorous spring-inspired overture is a similarly monothematic through-composed piece with just a whiff of Malcolm Arnold. The colourful orchestration of the latter's sets of dances is mirrored both in the jolly finale of Mathias's Serenade, where the main theme is repeated in constantly changing orchestral dress, and in the exuberant opening and closing movements of the Walters Gwent Suite.
All this music is brightly, lightly and affectionately played by Penny and his Royal Ballet Sinfonia and given a warmly colourful recording and nicely judged ambience. A pity it was not issued at Naxos price - such an enticing programme deserves the widest exposure. The disc, nevertheless, is generously full.'

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