Monday, 24 November 2008

Gareth Glyn: A Composer in Wales -Update

At the end of October I asked the composer to give me an update of what he was doing, musically. Bearing in mind that he lives on the Anglesey, which is a wonderful place, but which has suffered a worse than average summer, he remains remarkably upbeat! In fact on the day that he replied to me, he told me that there had been ‘apocalyptic rainfall…’

Nevertheless, this is as it should be. A lot is happening in his musical life that is positive and encouraging. There is a forthcoming CD that will feature a piece of music in which the main protagonists are Dominic Seldis (star of Maestro recently on BBC) and Jonathan Pryce (Bond villain and star of such films as Pirates of the Caribbean, Rise of Cobra and Evita) with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, in Glyn’s Welsh Incident. This is pending future release on the Dutton label.
More immediately important is the fact that the Gwynn publishing company of Penygroes in North Wales have embarked on a major programme of publishing Glyn's choral works. This will put into the public domain a number of interesting and singable pieces. They have recently published Fy Ngwlad (My Country), Cymru (Wales), Y Gymraeg (The Welsh Language) and Gwinllan a Roddwyd (A Vineyard was Given), all for SATB and piano and separately published under the umbrella title of Four Patriotic Songs. In the coming months Machynlleth Fair, Feet, Fluff and Sixth Birthday (the set Four Playful Songs), and 'Never was Dawn so Bright' (all for SATB) and Psalm 150 and The Harp (both for male voices and piano or orchestra) are due for publication.

Recently, there have been a number of important performances of Gareth Glyn’s works. His chamber suite Mabinogi received several performances in Ensemble Cymru’s tour of North Wales in October. In the same month, in London, Eleanor Turner played his suite for harp Child’s Play at the Wigmore Hall.
Seldis has also recorded as soloist, Glyn’s superb Microncerto for double bass and orchestra, which is a great treat for all music enthusiasts. It certainly beats Dragonetti's and Dittersdorf's! Much of this work is an inspired use of jazz, yet somehow it is not a jazz concerto as such. However, the double bass so often associated with jazz (Charlie Mingus et al) that it must be hard to avoid such a label. What does impress me is the singing tone of the more reflective moments. It has a personality far removed from the inevitable pizzicato. My only complaint and it is a big one, is that at just under 5 minutes- it is way too short…!

Finally, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, recorded his Cariad for orchestra .The title of this work means 'love’. This is an orchestral work which is composed in a 'Friday Night is Music Night' style. It presents several Welsh folksongs on the theme of love in one span of about eight minutes. Gareth pointed out to me that “they aren't all, strictly speaking, love-songs as the Welsh folk tradition is full of songs about unrequited and spurned affection, but there aren't that many expressing true and reciprocated love.”

Glyn is presently working on a Trumpet Concerto, which has been commissioned for Philippe Schartz and the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Wales It will be given its first performance on their tour in Luxembourg and Germany. Finally, he is working on an as yet unnamed piece which has been commissioned by the city of New Bern in North Carolina to mark the 300th anniversary of its foundation.

A few months ago I heard a recording of Gareth Glyn’s Symphony. It is one of the finest new works in that genre I have heard in many years. It was largely recorded at a live event. However the ‘scherzo’ was played by ‘Sibelius’ from the digital musical score. It is certainly a piece that deserves to be recorded. There is not doubt that Glyn comes from the same ‘symphonic’ stock as Daniel Jones, Alun Hoddinott, Grace Williams and William Mathias and surely deserves to be recognised as such.

John France November 2008

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