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8.225048 - Welsh Classical Favourites

Welsh Classical Favourites


If Beethoven had been born in the Vale of Merthyr in 1770,’ said the late John Edwards (1905- 66), founder of the Guild for the Promotion of Welsh Music, ‘he would have written no symphonies.’ The people of Wales in the nineteenth century were mostly too poor to own instruments, let alone write for them, so music was choral (except for the harp), simple and — as in England — derivative. We can, however, see a gradual upsurge of interest in instrumental music in the twentieth century. Greater communication with the outside world, and the advent of broadcasting, crowned by the persuasive voice of Sir Henry Walford Davies, helped bring about a change. Nevertheless, the composers did not lose their national identity.

Outstanding amongst the older generation, whose music showed ‘Welshness’ were David Vaughan Thomas, Arwel Hughes, Manuel Thomas, Daniel Jones and Grace Williams. All, in their different ways, demonstrated a sensitive appreciation of the metres of Welsh poetry from Dafydd ap Gwilym to Dylan Thomas; while Grace Williams, perhaps the best (and the first woman composer to achieve eminence), showed an unexpected brilliance in real orchestration. Encouragement from the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, the University Council of  Music, and the Arts Council of Wales, as well as the Guild for the Promotion of Welsh Music (founded in 1955 and still extant), meant that more composers aspired to seek the limelight. One of the first composers of the younger generation to benefit from this new climate was a student of my own at Aberystwyth, William Mathias, who died tragically young. However, in a community where Alun Hoddinott, Gareth Walters, Mervyn Burtch, Trevor Roberts and many others are still active, it can be said that the musical renaissance in Wales in our time has been truly remarkable.

Ian Parrott

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