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Penguin Guide, January 2009

First heard in 1937, Dyson’s Symphony in G is the most ambitious of his orchestral works. In the first two movements Dyson’s determination to strike a contemporary pose in that Sibelian era seems to inhibit his melodic gift, with thematic material fragmentary, and the charming second-movement Andante is slight. But in the third-movement variations—taking the place of a Scherzo—and most of all in the colourful finale, his inhibitions depart in writing that is warm, free and colourful, using ideas from The Canterbury Pilgrims, with majestic scoring for the brass. Helped by clear, well-balanced recording, David Lloyd-Jones conducts a brilliant performance which clarifies often heavy textures. In the Concerto da chiesa for strings of 1949, each of the three movements develops a medieval hymn melody, with Veni Emmanuel inspiring a darkly dedicated slow first movement, among Dyson’s finest inspirations. That melody returns, transformed, at the end of the finale which is based on the vigorous psalm-tune, Laetatus sum. With solo strings atmospherically set against the full string band, this is a neglected masterpiece. At the Tabard Inn was originally designed as an overture for his choral work, The Canterbury Pilgrims, and completes a first-rate disc, superbly played.

Fanfare, March 2006

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Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News, October 2005

You'd never know it from most orchestras' playlists, but the venerable symphony form continued to engage composers throughout the 20th century. In England alone, significant symphonies were penned by composers as varied as Elgar, Vaughan Williams, William Walton, Arnold Bax, E.J. Moeran, Havergal Brian, Lenox Berkeley, Alan Bush, William Alwyn, Michael Tippett and Humphrey Searle.

The finely crafted three symphonies of Alan Rawsthorne (1905-1971) represent a conservative international modernism. American listeners may hear him as a slightly more astringent, and considerably more contrapuntal, cousin of Samuel Barber.

Taking up where Vaughan Williams' Fourth Symphony left off, Rawsthorne's First (1950) is unsettled when it isn't stormy. The Second Symphony, subtitled Pastoral, is far gentler, but disturbing undercurrents rise in the slow movement. The Third Symphony is the most rigorous, using some serial techniques but never piling on heavy dissonance.

A generation older, George Dyson (1883-1964) betrays his fondness for Strauss in the leaping, voluptuous harmonies opening his Symphony in G major (1937). But there's also a good deal of Sibelius' restless outdoorsy manner. At the Tabard Inn was an after-the-fact overture based on themes from Dyson's big choral work The Canterbury Pilgrims. The Concerto da chiesa, based on Advent and Christmas hymns, is a three-movement suite for strings in the tradition of Elgar and Vaughan Williams.

Performances on both CDs are superb, and superbly recorded.

Calum MacDonald (Performance: 5 stars;Sound: 5 stars)
BBC Music Magazine, July 2005

"Though in one sense a mere potpourri of themes from his Canterbury Pilgrims, George Dyson’s Chaucerian overture At the Tabard Inn is so cunningly woven together, with such excellent ideas in the weaving, that it’s the very model of a rollicking English comedy-overture. I’ve never understood the neglect of this utterly lovable piece.

His sole symphony of 1937 has been even more neglected: it is in fact a subtle and thoughtful work that repays repeated hearings, and another interesting example of a British symphony of the period (like Moeran or Walton) surprisingly reliant on the accent and example of Sibelius to keep the argument in motion. This is especially true of the first two movements, especially the very Sibelian Andante: the balletic scherzo in variation form is more original, and the finale steers into Canterbury Pilgrims territory before the end.

Richard Hickox’s sturdy performances of Overture and Symphony, here reissued and sensibly coupled, are perfectly reliable as introductions to both works and are played with proper gusto. But I find the new versions from David Lloyd-Jones more vividly characterised, while his recording has greater clarity and is better balanced, bringing out the subtleties of Dyson’s counterpoint more effectively. Honours, nonetheless, are so nearly even that it may be the other couplings that prove decisive: Dyson’s In Honour of the City, though hearty in a generalized way, is all too genteel compared to Walton’s setting of the same text; while the Concerto da chiesa is a searching and sensitive string-orchestra work founded on psalm tunes, beautifully expounded by Lloyd-Jones."

Christopher Howell
MusicWeb International, July 2005

"If I have written so much about a symphony which seems to me not entirely successful, it shows that my curiosity has been aroused. The unusual shape of the work may come to seem convincing in the end, but I am bound to say that not all the thematic material is particularly characterful or memorable. To take another British composer who wrote just one symphony during the same decade, the structure of Moeran’s symphony may be questionable, but it nevertheless has clear-cut, memorable themes and an atmosphere all of its own. Still, explorers of post-romantic tonal symphonies are going to find plenty to interest them in Dyson’s. I haven’t heard the alternative version under Hickox, but Lloyd-Jones sounds so good – and the Bournemouth orchestra so rich-toned – that I find it difficult to imagine any alternative being worth the extra money. I did listen to an old Unicorn recording of the Overture under David Willcocks; the slower tempi on the older disc produced an affectionately jaunty effect, and the slower themes were tenderly nostalgic rather than lush, but in the closing stages the effect was a little heavy, so Lloyd-Jones’s credentials as a Dyson interpreter emerged reinforced. In sound, performance and presentation – Lewis Foreman provides reliable introductions to the composer, the Overture and the Symphony – this disc feels like a quality product."

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