Thomas Dunhill was born in London in 1877 and studied with Charles Stanford and Frederick Taylor at the Royal College of Music. He later became a professor at that school and also taught at Eton. To promote the music of his contemporaries, he founded in 1907 the "Thomas Dunhill Chamber Concerts" and also worked as a conductor. His compositional output was not vast but included light operas (his most successful genre), ballets, orchestral works, chamber music and songs. In addition to his single Symphony, making its recorded debut on this release, some of his other works for orchestra written over the span of four decades and ranging from serious to light are: "Rhapsody in A minor" (1903), a suite for small orchestra "The Pixies" (1908), "Capricious Variations on an Old English Tune for Cello and Orchestra" (1910), prelude "The King's Threshold" (1913), "Elegiac Variations on an Original Theme" (1922), "Chiddingfold Suite for Strings" (1922), The "Guildford Suite" (1925), "Triptych - Three Impressions for Viola and Orchestra" (1942), "Waltz Suite" (1943) and overture "May-Time" (1945).
Dunhill's Symphony in A minor was first conceived in 1913 and completed in 1916. It received a reading at the RCM in 1922 but had its official premiere that same year in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The first British performance took place the following year in Bournemouth conducted by the composer. Before disappearing prior to this current recording the Symphony would receive several further hearings with its last one being in 1935.
The Symphony makes an immediate impression as a big, warm, tuneful and memorable statement. It is decidedly conventional and old-fashioned even for its own time. No influence of the folksong movement or Delian pantheism is evident while the influence of Elgar's Symphonies is unmistakable though not pervasive. Despite its gestation during World War I the music lacks any significant sounds of deep anxiety. The opening movement is forceful, though perhaps a little over-extended, and abounds in big tunes one of which bears a striking resemblance to a similar melody in Ernest Chausson's Symphony in B flat major. The rollicking scherzo might remind the listener of Litolff's famous scherzo from his Concerto Symphonique No. 4 but it is pure delight. The slow movement marked adagio non troppo is haunting and the work's crowning section. Here is where Elgar's spirit looms large in its elegiac beauty. The last movement returns to the soundworld of the first movement and moves inexorably towards a grand climax that ought to bring any audience to its feet.
The main course for me is Arnell's Symphonic Portrait "Lord Byron." Like Dunhill two generations before him, Arnell was born in London and studied at the Royal College of Music. His composition teacher was John Ireland who, again like Dunhill, was a student of Stanford. He spent a number of years in America where his music was championed by Bernard Herrmann and other conductors and a number of his major works received performances. Back in England after World War II, Beecham became a patron as well but Arnell's prominence eventually faded when composers of his tonal ilk were consigned to near-oblivion by the musical fashion-police.
Those familiar with Arnell's expansive post-romantic/conservative modern idiom will find much to enjoy in "Lord Byron". Written in 1952, the work was commissioned and first performed by Sir Thomas Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It plays without a break for more than 21 minutes but is divided into eight distinct sections that highlight six episodes in the poet's life girded by a prelude and an epilogue. This very descriptive music ranges from gentle to soaring and is delightful from beginning to end.
Thomas F. Dunhill - Symphony in A minor, Op. 48
3)Adagio non troppo
Richard Arnell - Lord Byron, Symphonic Portrait
8)Success & Disgrace