Hoddinott: Songs

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COMPOSERS: Hoddinott
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone), Manon Williams (harp), Nigel Foster (piano)
Alun Hoddinott’s status of ‘senior Welsh composer’ has been a double-edged sword, winning him performances at home, but leaving him undeservedly neglected outside the Principality. His song cycles have vocal lines which, without achieving great memorability, convey the sense and mood of the texts clearly (certainly in the settings of English, and presumably in Welsh as well); their piano parts are richly varied in texture, from the sparse chords and stern octaves which colour much of the 1972 Ancestor Worship to the ecstatic nature-painting of the more recent Paradwys Mai. He is also a deft and inventive arranger of Welsh folksongs. The Welsh baritone Jeremy Huw Williams sings with poise and authority, deploying a heroic edge to his tone when necessary, though not always a comparable softness. He is joined by his harpist wife for a delightful set of nursery rhyme arrangements which Hoddinott made for their daughter. Elsewhere Nigel Foster proves an accomplished and responsive pianist. The recording is clear, but places the singer too obviously in a large empty room. The booklet contains a useful essay by Williams on Hoddinott as song composer, but only English translations of the Welsh songs, and no original English texts. Anthony Burton