Alun Hoddinott was born in Glamorganshire in 1929. His first international success came when his Concerto for Clarinet and Strings was conducted by Sir John Barbirolli at the 1954 Cheltenham Festival. Hoddinott’s prolific catalogue included six operas (two for television), six symphonies and fourteen concertos. He played a leading role in Welsh musical life as Professor of Music at Cardiff University (1967 - 1987) and Founder and Artistic Director of the Cardiff Festival from 1967-1989).
Hoddinott’s Sixth Symphony is dedicated ’to John Piper on his eightieth birthday, with affection and admiration’. The work sets out as if embarking on a momentous voyage. The material of this imposing Maestoso forms the basis of the ensuing journey through five interlocking tempi and richly varied range of transformations. The gently clanging bells at the beginning intone the home tonality, which acts as a powerful anchor to the structure.
Hoddinott wrote of Lanternedes morts that ideas for this work originated during a stay in the medieval French town of Sarlat. The Lanterne des morts of the title is actually a large, bee-hive shaped construction. There is no means of access to the upper part except by ladder and the apertures are too narrow for a man to pass through - there is, however, suffiecient room for the lamps to be placed in the four windows. Legend has it that the souls of those placed inside are transformed into white doves which fly away through the windows. The music is evocative and atmospheric and speaks powerfully for itself.
The group of three songs for soprano and orchestra entitles A Contemplation upon Flowers was commissioned by the Fishguard Festival, with poems selected by Myfanwy Piper. The vocal line captures the ebb and flow of the poetry to perfection and is enhanced by a glowing orchestral backdrop.
Scena for strings was commissioned by the City of London Sinfonia. Hoddinott’s instrumental works are frequently motivated by an abstract dramatic impulse and many have the title or subtile ’scena’. Cast as an unbroken arch-like structure the score is a virtuosic exploration of string textures and sonorities.
"...Well played by Bryden Thomson and the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra."
Norman Stinchcombe - Birmingham Post - 23 October 1989
"...the first two pieces on it are drop-dead gorgeous - lush mystical, radiant but not too long, too amorphous or so thickly scored that you can’t grasp the musical content ..." ****
San Francisco Tribune - 5 April 1990
"...these performances are all exemplary, as are the usual Chandos state-of-the-art sonics. .. this CD offers an excellent introduction to the highlevel of recent accomplishment reached by one of the British Isles’ master-composers."
paul A Snook - Fanfare - January/February 1990
"...All four works are formidably well played (and sung) and the recordings render Hoddinott’s shadowed colours, grainy blacks and brightly seamed granitic textures, with maximum fidelity."
Michael Oliver - Gramophone - December 1989