What a difference half a century makes! If the five Essays for Orchestra by English composer Stephen Dodgson had been written in the mid-'30s instead of the mid-'80s, they would have been fairly conservative but still effective modernist works with heavy romantic overtones. But because they were written in the mid-'80s, they sound out of date with their chromatically inflected but tonally based harmonies, their themes varied in emotion but not in expression, their expertly crafted but hardly exciting developments, and their brilliant but hardly inventive scoring. This is not to say that Dodgson is not a talented and hard-working composer who seems to have achieved precisely what he set out to, but none of these works can hold a candle to the great works of English musical modernism, and they are most likely to appeal to fans of the music of the interwar period. The performances are professional and deeply committed. David Lloyd-Jones elicits powerful playing from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and he makes the most persuasive possible case for each of the five Essays. Dutton's sound is rich, deep, and colorful.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard