WORKS: The Canterbury Pilgrims; At the Tabard Inn Overture; In Honour of the City
PERFORMER: Yvonne Kenny (soprano), Robert Tear (tenor), Stephen Roberts (baritone)LSO& Chorus/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9531(2)
Until recently the only musicians to have heard of Dyson were church choirs. But this is about to change: English music’s champion Richard Hickox, in his hundredth Chandos recording, is leading Dyson’s Canterbury Pilgrims back from three decades’ obscurity, bringing with them revelations of their composer’s forgotten skills as orchestrator and characteriser.
This piece is about pilgrims, not their tales: Dyson confines himself to Chaucer’s general prologue, where each character is presented. The work ends as the first tale, the Knight’s, begins, his words poignantly dying away as the pilgrims set off. Dyson wanted to write music that the choral societies of his day could enjoy. The Canterbury Pilgrims’s success, from its 1930 premiere right into the Sixties, proves he succeeded. The writing is very pictorial; the structure, in bite-sized pieces, one for each pilgrim, is easy to follow; and the three solo voices (Kenny, Tear and Roberts revelling in the rich cross-section of society they portray) and chorus provide variety of texture.
Chaucer’s amusingly ironic depictions and Dyson’s memorable tunes and imaginative orchestration are a winning combination. If you like Gerontius, Vaughan Williams and Ireland, you’ll like Dyson: go out and buy this disc. Janet Banks