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Daniel Jones Symphonies Nos. 1 & 10



Daniel Jones (1912-1993) composed in a wide range of genres, yet the cornerstone of his prolific output is the Symphony, memorably described by him as ‘a dramatic structure with an emotive intention’. He tackled the form afresh with each of his 13 examples, of which the first 12 are based on a different note of the chromatic scale. Though each of his thirteen symphonies is a unique and highly personal statement, the cycle as a whole maintains an unwavering consistency of quality and vision. Daniel Jones demonstrates a steadfast integrity throughout, never bowing to the latest trends. His priority is always to communicate directly with the listener. Paul Conway, 2016

Daniel Jones Symphonies Nos. 1 & 10


Lyrita have had two fine and valuable CDs of symphonies by Daniel Jones in their catalogue for some time. On SRCD326 the Sixth and Ninth were coupled with the choral work The Country Beyond the Stars. On SRCD329 Groves conducted Symphonies Four and Seven, while Thomson was in charge for the Eighth Symphony.

Composition of his First Symphony occupied Daniel Jones between 1944 and 1947. He scored it for a fairly conventional orchestra consisting of double woodwind, plus a third flute, four horns, three each of trumpets and trombones, tuba and strings. The only percussion instruments deployed are timpani. It’s in four movements of which the first and last are cast in sonata-form. In describing both this work and the Tenth I should acknowledge my debt to Paul Conway’s excellent notes which guide the listener through both symphonies in an expert and clear manner.

The First Symphony may not be typical of the more concise essays in the genre that Daniel Jones went on to compose but I find it very impressive and I’ve enjoyed very much the process of getting to know it. Bryden Thomson seems to be a most effective and committed guide to the score.

More than three decades separate the Tenth Symphony from the First and it was a very shrewd move to couple them. In the intervening years Jones’s symphonic syntax had become much more concise – the longest movement in the Tenth, its slow movement, plays for just 7:00 whereas all the movements of the First, apart from the scherzo, last for well over ten minutes. Interestingly, though, whilst the writing was now more succinct Jones had become much more expansive in his orchestration. Mr Conway uses the word “defiant” for the ending of the symphony; there’s no better word for it. Summing up the Tenth Symphony Conway hits the bulls-eye when he says that it “has a troubled, sorrowing quality and a fatalistic ending.”  It’s more challenging of the listener than the First Symphony but in their different ways both scores are highly rewarding.

These are two important scores by Daniel Jones and one can only rejoice that they are now widely available thanks to Lyrita. Everything about this disc is excellent. The music certainly comes into that category. So, too, does the committed advocacy of the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra under Bryden Thomson’s experienced guiding hand. There need be no reservations on sonic grounds either. The BBC stereo recordings have come up very well indeed. Finally, I’ve praised Mr Conway’s notes as a guide to the music: they are just as valuable in tracing the career of Daniel Jones and putting in context these two symphonies.

Admirers of Daniel Jones should not hesitate to acquire this disc – I’m sure they’ll need no urging from me – but it would seem to me also to offer an excellent introduction to his music for those who do not yet know it. I await the promised future releases from Lyrita with impatience. John Quinn,

The Welsh composer, (1912-1993) was born in Pembroke to a father, Jenkyn Jones, who was a composer and a mother who was a singer. Against this background the young Jones developed quickly, writing several piano sonatas by the age of nine. This is a terrific symphony, not a note too long, full of wonderful ideas and orchestration. I am pleased to say that the recording is in every way superior, vivid, detailed and better balanced. That very fine conductor the late Brydon Thomson really had the measure of these symphonies. There are very useful booklet notes. Thank you Lyrita and the BBC – I await the next instalment with anticipation. theclassicalreviewer

"In a Gramaphone interview (‘Exploring the Frontiers’, 2/87) Bryden Thomson said of Daniel Jones; He knows what he wants, he knows what he’s writing and he knows when it isn’t right. You can’t say that about a lot of composers these days.’

In early 1990 Thomson conducted the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra (now the BBC National Orchestra of Wales) in a studio cycle of Jones’s 12 numbered symphonies (the unnumbered 1992 Symphony ‘in memoriam John Fussell’ having not yet been composed) and these four recordings derive from that cycle, whereas Lyrita’s earlier Jones issues – even of Symphonies Nos 8 and 9, conducted by Thomson – are reissues from 1970s LPs by Pye, HMV and the short-lived BBC Artium label.

Precisely when Jones first conceived the idea of composing a cycle of 12 symphonies each based on a different note of the chromatic scale as tonal centre in unclear but it was probably not during the writing of the First (1944-47), originally designated ‘in E minor’. At 50 minutes long, it is Jones’s largest symphony, in which the fledgling symphonist revealed his mastery and understanding of the medium for the first time. His view of the symphony evolved radically, with goal-driven forms and growing concision – neither Nos 10 (1981-82) nor 11 (1983) exceed 20 minutes.

There are few obvious resonances in the musical language, though I have always thought the structures of the First and 43 minute-long Second (1950, centred around A, neither major or minor) nodded towards Russian models. With its increased use of percussion, No 2 is brighter in tone that its predecessor, with a recurring allusion to Vaughan Williams’s F minor Symphony in the finale. Both the Tenth and Eleventh Symphonies follow dramatic-tragic courses, the latter a memorial to his friend George Froom Tyler, erstwhile chairman of the Swansea Festival.

The reception of Jones’s music has usually been respectful rather than enthusiastic, even in these august pages so let me raise the bar somewhat. These are strong and important works that repay familiarity. The performances by the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra and Thomson are finely realised, alive to their rhythmic intricacies and growing orchestrational confidence. Lyrita’s remastering provides depth and clarity to the studio-bound sound. As with the symphonies of Havergal Brian, a cycle of which is also near completion, what is needed next is for these symphonies to be taken up in both concert hall and studio. How about it, Messrs Brabbins, Walker, Woods?"

Guy Rickards