DYSON: Concerto da Chiesa. Concerto Leggiero. Concerto da Camera. Eric Parkin, piano; Richard Hickox conducting the City of London Sinfonia. CHANDOS CHAN-9076 [DDD]; 71:09 Produced by Tim Oldham.
Sir George Dyson lived from 1853 to 1964, making him an exact contemporary of Arnold Bax and a near-contemporary of John Ireland. He was a highly esteemed and active administrator, heading the Royal College of Music for 14 years. In his informative program notes, the usually perspicacious Christopher Palmer makes rather grand claims for Dyson as a major creative figure, but they fail to be substantiated by the works presented here. These were all composed during the years 1949-51, and are presumed to be making their first appearances on recording.
The most impressive of the three works is the Concerto da Chiesa, which juxtaposes a string quartet against a larger string group, in a concerto grosso format. It is the most English-sounding of the three, with a grave first movement that displays some strong emotional content. The rest of the work is more moderate in tone. The work calls to mind the ConcertoGrosso No. 2 of Ernest Bloch, a composition similar in concept, scope, duration, and date of composition. Dyson’s piece, however, is more ingratiating and genial in character.
The music offered here is smoothly crafted, warm and sweet with gentle gestures, rich impressionistic harmony, and a purposeful rhythmic flow. Occasionally one encounters melodic/harmonic turns of phrase surprisingly suggestive of Richard Strauss, but the expressive compass is much narrower.
Although the overall language is romantic/impressionistic, the regular patterns, emotional moderation, and abstract forms give a classical cast to the expression, as in the music of Fauré. But, unfortunately, Dyson’s phraseology lacks the piquancy of Fauré. In his notes, Palmer seems at pains to present Dyson as more than a minor composer, but that is really the most charitable characterization for him. This is pleasant music, but its emotional monotony is, for this listener, soporific
The performances are all highly polished.