Welsh Dances

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Listeners looking for the best of the lighter side of postwar Welsh composers need look no further than this Lyrita disc, Welsh Dances. Three of Wales' best modernists are represented here: Daniel Jones with his Dance Fantasy, William Mathias with his Celtic Dances, and Alun Hoddinott with five works, each more cheerfully melodic and brightly colorful than the last. Fans of the deep, dark, and mysterious may be disappointed, but each composer is undeniably a master of his craft, and every work is well-designed for maximum effectiveness. Among the most appealing are Jones' brassy and bouncy Dance Fantasy; Mathias' lush, lyrical Celtic Dances; and Hoddinott's vivid and evocative Jack Straw Overture, as well as his brashly attractive first set of Welsh Dances. The performances come from four sources. The three best by far are the rambunctious first set of Welsh Dances with Charles Groves and the Royal Philharmonic, and rapacious Jack Straw Overture with Groves and the Philharmonia Orchestra's, followed by the dashing Dance Fantasy with Bryden Thomson and the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra. The remaining performances by Arthur Davison and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales are functional and dedicated, but neither especially inspired nor polished. Lyrita's stereo sound is surprisingly lackluster.

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