Lyrita Records embarked on their Daniel Jones symphonic cycle in the 1970s. It’s good to have them available again in digital form.
Early in his career, this Welsh composer devised his own musical language that served him well. Jones’ Complex Metres system used asymmetrical patterns. These patterns never quite align as they repeat. That gives Jones’ music a restless fluidity that provides its forward motion.
The two symphonies on this re-release make a good pair. Jones completed his second symphony in 1950. He experimented with serial techniques, which are prominent in this work. His eleventh symphony is firmly rooted in tonality, albeit an expanded one.
Both works incorporate Jones’ Complex Metres, and both use large orchestras. After the second symphony, Jones pared back his scope. Symphonies three through ten use more modest-sized orchestras. Symphony No. 11, written in memoriam for a colleague and friend. It marks Jones’ return to an expanded orchestra.
Though three decades separate these works, they’re remarkably similar in style and sound. Both feature some imaginative melodic writing. And to my ears, they have a cosmopolitan sound. They don’t sound especially Welsh, or even British. They’re simply the expression of an individual with a unique perspective.
Lyrita employed some of the best musicians for this project. For this release, it was the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra and Bryden Thomson. I doubt we’ll hear these works performed with deeper understanding and commitment.
Daniel Jones: Symphonies 2 & 11
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra; Bryden Thomson, conductor