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The Sir George Dyson Trust, the estate of Sir David Willcocks and the Friends of The Bach Choir, who funded this premiere recording of Dyson’s 1910 Choral Symphony and of the hard-to-classify dramatic cantata St Paul’s Voyage to Melita, should congratulate themselves on money well spent. David Hill gathers fine soloists and builds on his long association with the Bach Choir and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to breathe life into Paul Spicer’s discovery, in the Bodleian Library, of Dyson’s Oxford doctorate submission. Written when the composer was 34, Dyson’s setting of the Psalm 107 narrative of the expulsion of the Jews from Israel by the Babylonians surely springs forth to claim a place next to Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony for the attention of the Britain’s choral societies. An orchestral introduction of operatic length defies convention, setting the scene for choral episodes which reveal Dyson’s continental training and subsequent study with Stanford, dramatically underpinning the narrative of exile and despair, before the fourth movement, ‘They that go down to the sea in ships’, unleashes a particularly vivid blast of marine music, with echoes of Elgar, Wagner and even Tchaikovsky. More colourful music accompanies St Paul’s voyage to stand trial in Rome for insurgency, as set out in Acts XXIII; Dyson’s skills in orchestration vividly depict the travellers’ unlikely survival in the face of a shipwreck near Melita (Malta) at sea, and murderous centurions. On this showing, none could surely disagree with Spicer’s view that these and other neglected Dyson works fully deserve to become ‘once more an important part of our choral landscape.’ At Naxos prices, music lovers might well start the ball rolling with this highly recommended recording.

GRAEME KAY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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