Friday, January 26, 2018

English suites and others no. 21

Having spun out my collection of favorite English suites, what's next? Now I'm going to embark on a little tour of the five Celtic nationalities of the British/Irish archipelago, one stop for each.

This will mostly be tourist music, as of the five composers only one is a native of the nation represented. But it will also mostly be folk music, as four of the five works are based on folk music.

Our first visit is to Wales. Sir Edward German, though born just over the English border (as was David Lloyd George), was thoroughly of Welsh descent: his name was actually the Welsh forename Garmon, and his real last name was Jones, than which there is nothing more Welsh.

German is best-remembered for his turn-of-the-20th-century operettas, successor after the death of Sir Arthur Sullivan as the leading British composer in this form, until taking up Sullivan's mantle of collaborating with the irascible W.S. Gilbert drove him to swear off the theatre.

In the course of events he also wrote this memorable Welsh Rhapsody on delightfully catchy Welsh folk tunes. It's not a suite, actually, but an integrated composition with symphonic development to its melodies, mixed in with thematic material of German's own. Accordingly I'm giving two timings for each section, one where the section begins and then when the folk song first appears in full.

The folk songs are: Ymadawiad y Brenin (The Departure of the King) (0:01/0:08); Hela'r Ysgyfarnog (Hunting the Hare) (4:48/4:58) mixed with Clychau Aberdyfi (The Bells of Aberdovey) (5:51); Dafydd y Garreg Wen (David of the White Rock) (8:38/9:12); Rhyfelgyrch Gwyr Harlech (Men of Harlech) (13:54/14:50).

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