DANIEL JONES (1912-1993): Rediscovered - Piano Works from 1933-1949: Preludes in D, in C and in D Minor, Divertimento, Academic Suite, 2 Concert Studies, Thema con varizaioni in D Flat, Capriccio in E, Fantasias in E, in E Flat Minor and in B, Legend, Sonatina in A Minor, 3 Caprices, Theme, Variations and Fugue in C Sharp Minor, 4 Preludes, Romance in G Minor, 3 Old Pieces, Suite No. 8 in B Flat, Lento Malinconico, Sonata No. 6 in C Sharp Minor.

Catalogue Number: 07Y044

Label: Lyrita

Reference: SRCD.2396

Format: CD

Price: $34.98

Description: Here’s a story of which you don’t hear the like very often. We all know Daniel Jones as the natural symphonist whose canon of thirteen powerful, rugged, muscular symphonies, composed between 1944 and 1992 (11X008, 03W001, 09J057, 08T001, 01S001) deserve to be recognised as one of the finest such bodies of work to have emerged from the British Isles in the twentieth century. Looking at his catalogue of acknowledged works one would naturally assume that he was almost exclusively a composer for large forces, and mainly a symphonist whose large tonal essays in this medium, tightly organised, with a penchant for traditional forms, and marked by his original system of "Complex Metres" - asymmetrical arrangements of sequences of bars in different metres, which give the impression of constant rhythmic activity and instability - meticulously structured but constantly in flux (with a mind that worked this way it was no coincidence that he was a code-breaker at Bletchley Park during the war), form the backbone of his output. And indeed, this is exactly how he tried to portray himself, dismissing his pre-WWII compositions as "either experiments or disasters; usually both", and relegating the importance of his re-symphonic output to " … a long apprenticeship in the form of chamber music and several piano sonatas." But in fact, he went a great deal further than this, completely repudiating his (as it turns out) very large output for piano, and going so far as to claim that he had little interest in the instrument, and that he never had had much. So when Martin Jones visited the Welsh National Library Archive in Aberystwyth to inspect some Manuscripts, he was not a little surprised to find a very large treasure-trove of high-quality piano music, with many pieces complete in fair copy, and some even bearing fingerings! The four hours of music presented here make it clear that Jones was, without a hint of exaggeration, a very major piano composer and moreover, one whose skills as performer must have been formidable. Why he turned away from any contact with the instrument, so abruptly and decisively, is for now a complete mystery. These works range from miniatures of considerable emotional content and expression in a variety of forms to large-scale works structured in multiple movements, with many examples of Jones' favoured traditional forms - theme and variations, sonata form, fugue. The 40-minute, 5-movement 6th Sonata is a major work by any standards (and the prospect that there might be at least five more is exciting). The first movement is intense and driven, even the slower second subject, given short shrift by the muscular momentum of the movement, does little to impede the music’s impatient forward rush. The next movement wanders in deep meditation, gradually building to a powerful, passionate climax. A fast, motoric scherzo follows, obsessively driven to pursue its goal rather than sounding mindlessly mechanistic; then a stately introduction prefaces the surging opening of the finale proper, a sustained outpouring of conflicting, intense passions. Here as elsewhere in his piano output, Jones displays great inventiveness in his piano writing, with sudden changes of texture and abrupt octave displacements of climactic chords. After a massive climax, instead of the expected towering conclusion Jones takes the bold step of winding down and transitioning into a thoroughly worked out 5-voice fugue, which gathers its forces to provide an architecturally and intellectually satisfying ending. The two substantial suites are both in four movements, intriguingly arranged somewhat symphonically or sonata-like rather than at all resembling Baroque suites. The "Academic" - by which Jones seems to have meant neoclassical, at least as far as the sprightly first movement, with its expectant introduction and postlude, is concerned - is a fine and most enjoyable work of considerable substance. The second is a graceful, singing slow movement, with brief surges of passion; this is followed by a brief, brusque scherzo. The finale is an extended set of eight inventive, characterful variations, covering a dramatic range of moods. Suite No.8 begins with a solemn prelude with a more harmonically wayward, flowing central section, dramatically interrupted by stabbing chords. The following scherzo is an excitable little divertimento, after which a set of variations explore many facets of an elegant, subdued theme, with the composer’s contrapuntal skill amply displayed. The finale is bold and muscular, initially aggressive but gradually becoming more resolute and settled in mood. The half-hour Theme, Variations and Fugue is a "late" work in the sense that its composition date - 1945 - just overlaps with the start of the composer’s symphonic career. One of the finest works here, its eloquent, richly textured variations on a theme that reflects Jones' veneration of Purcell encompass a military march, a scene of quasi-operatic passion, a kind of scherzo-toccata, a calm variation sequence within the set, reintroducing the archaic cadences of the theme, and the stately, unhurried fugal finale. Also of especial note are the Sonatina, packing huge expressive content and drama into a third the length of the sonata and ending with another variation set; and the profoundly sad, simply eloquent Lento malincolico, another "late" work with echoes of Purcell. A substantial handful of preludes - none of them slight in expression - find the young composer exploring concision and formal economy, while fantasias and caprices give free rein to his rhapsodic imagination and piano technique. 4 CDs. Martin Jones (piano).


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