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Alun Hoddinott and the concept of "Musical Accessibility"


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Dundonnell
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« on: September 01, 2013, 01:07:57 am »

I am listening again to my favourite Alun Hoddinott-the Sixth Symphony in the hugely impressive reading for Chandos by the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra(as was) under that exceptionally fine conductor, Bryden Thomson.

Hoddinott is a composer I admire immensely. Only four of his numbered ten symphonies are on disc but there is a substantial quantity of his music available, much of it courtesy of Lyrita. Even then however the recorded Hoddinott is but a small part of his incredibly large body of compositions. My catalogue of his orchestral and choral music alone runs to four pages and 189 opus numbers. We are fortunate indeed to have a substantial number of unrecorded compositions in our British Archive here-probably the most important Hoddinott collection in existence.

Listening to the Hoddinott Sixth a thought occurred to me. There is a "grey area" of musical complexity which, for some of us(including I admit, myself), represents the outer limits of our musical taste. This, it seems to me, includes the music of those 20th century composers who wrote at the edge of tonality, whose music is densely contrapuntal, who may have used serial techniques from time to time yet who were not willing to embrace serialism per se. And the "grey area" also includes some serialists who wrote within traditionally accepted musical forms and whose music demonstrates clearly the legacy of the past. Thus, speaking entirely personally, I can respect, admire, cherish the music of British composers like Egon Wellesz, Benjamin Frankel and Humphrey Searle.

Hoddinott's music certainly sits in that area. When I-no doubt rashly-describe music as "accessible" I am using a concept which may be entirely and exclusively subjective. The music is "accessible" to me does not necessarily mean that it is "accessible" to others. And yet........I imagine that I know enough about the musical tastes of some other members of a music forum to use the word with a certain measure of confidence. I think that I know what they like and therefore, ergo, I think I know what will stretch their musical endurance and patience. I may, of course, be wrong Grin

Some of Hoddinott's music is barely "accessible" (to me Grin). The earlier symphonies, prior to No.6, are dense and difficult(for me). I might be reluctant to proclaim them as "easy listening". They are not. The Sixth is "easier" ....yet it might still be beyond the musical tastes of others. Of the four great 20th century Welsh composers: Grace Williams, Daniel Jones, Alun Hoddinott and William Mathias Hoddinott's music is the most complex. There is no surface glitter. It demands fierce concentration. It is predominantly dark in tone. Anger, sadness, the night- all pervade Hoddinott's music. Serial elements are used but around a firm base in tonality. Nevertheless the music is heavily chromatic. Those who find Daniel Jones congenial or who admire the much brighter musical idiom of that fine composer William Mathias might still baulk at the darker and denser Hoddinott idiom.

I admire Hoddinott enormously and regret profoundly that we do not hear more of his music. Am I cheered up by it: No Smiley (Although there are some lighter pieces like the Welsh Dances to listen to!). But if I want to enter into a sound world which is very distinctive and which contains so much of that solemnity which appeals intensely to me then I love to listen to one of Hoddinott's remarkable shorter works(like "Lanterne des Morts") which have a visionary quality I could only compare to Gustav Holst.

Accessible Huh Over to you Smiley
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Vandermolen
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« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2013, 07:01:18 pm »

Because of you Colin I came to really appreciate the Third Symphony, a work I had hitherto found unapproachable. The Sixth is wonderful as is that whole Chandos CD.
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kyjo
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« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2013, 04:45:01 am »

Hoddinott's music does present some challenges for me, but I cannot help but be spellbound by some of the otherworldly atmospheres he creates in his music. Sometimes cosmic, visionary, cataclysmic, or just downright spooky, there is something about his music that is uniquely haunting. In addition to his gifts as an atmosphere-creator, he is also in great command of form and argument, and his symphonies are recognizably derived from the great symphonic tradition.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2013, 01:40:44 pm »

I cannot remember "selling" the Hoddinott Third to you, Jeffrey.....but, if I did, then I am delighted to have done so Smiley

I agree with Kyle about the atmospheric nature of Hoddinott's music. There is, as I said, plenty to choose from in our marvellous collection oh Hoddinott in the British Music Archive on this site(including all the unrecorded symphonies bar No.1).
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Vandermolen
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« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2013, 03:59:41 pm »

I cannot remember "selling" the Hoddinott Third to you, Jeffrey.....but, if I did, then I am delighted to have done so Smiley

I agree with Kyle about the atmospheric nature of Hoddinott's music. There is, as I said, plenty to choose from in our marvellous collection oh Hoddinott in the British Music Archive on this site(including all the unrecorded symphonies bar No.1).

Maybe it was Andre. Just read your opening post Colin (whilst at school hahaha!) which is excellent and I agree with everything you say it in about the outer reaches of tonality, approachability. I have to be in the right mood, but there are trimes when more 'approachable'/tuneful music will not do and I need to listen to something more complex, darker, visionary, thought provoking. Hoddinott's Third and the wonderful no 6 certainly come into this category, as does Robert Simpson's Symphony No 3, which I listened to during my long drive to work this morning. There are no obvious 'tunes' but the thematic material stays with me. There is a kind of gritty integrity about this music, which can be very appealing. Kokkonen's 4th Symphony is another in this category (for me) along with Klauss Egge's Second Symphony and Blomdahl's 'Facetter Symphony'.



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Dundonnell
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« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2013, 04:36:33 pm »

Thank you, Jeffrey Smiley

(I must admit that I wrote the post in the early hours of Sunday morning and was not at all sure that it made any sense Grin)
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Vandermolen
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« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2013, 05:04:54 pm »

Thank you, Jeffrey Smiley

(I must admit that I wrote the post in the early hours of Sunday morning and was not at all sure that it made any sense Grin)

It makes total sense Colin.  Smiley
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relm1
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« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2013, 02:23:51 am »

I am enjoying listening to all symphonies of Hoddinott in sequence.  I'm currently on No. 9 - what an individual voice!  I'm curious about the Symphony No. 1 - does it exist as a recording anywhere?  There seems to be very little on the web about this...making it all the more tantalizing especially when someone traverses a symphonic cycle.  Important to hear where it all began! 
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« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2013, 02:48:02 am »

Hoddinott followed in the footsteps of one of my favorite composers, Willaim Mathias.
Generally, the same adverbs which define Hoddinott apply to Mathias, who was very prolific in his shortened life.
While their music is different, there is no denying that abstract Welsh nostalgia and spookiness in all of it..
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2013, 12:37:44 am »

Hoddinott followed in the footsteps of one of my favorite composers, Willaim Mathias.
Generally, the same adverbs which define Hoddinott apply to Mathias, who was very prolific in his shortened life.
While their music is different, there is no denying that abstract Welsh nostalgia and spookiness in all of it..

Hoddinott was five years older than Mathias and was very prolific from an early age. I must therefore, respectfully, dissent from the assertion that he "followed" in the footsteps of the younger composer.

As you say, their music IS very different. Whilst Mathias's music is brightly lit (reminiscent sometimes of the younger Tippett), Hoddinott's is very much music of the night, dark, solemn but always imposing.
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Jolly Roger
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« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2013, 10:49:48 am »

Hoddinott followed in the footsteps of one of my favorite composers, Willaim Mathias.
Generally, the same adverbs which define Hoddinott apply to Mathias, who was very prolific in his shortened life.
While their music is different, there is no denying that abstract Welsh nostalgia and spookiness in all of it..

Hoddinott was five years older than Mathias and was very prolific from an early age. I must therefore, respectfully, dissent from the assertion that he "followed" in the footsteps of the younger composer.

As you say, their music IS very different. Whilst Mathias's music is brightly lit (reminiscent sometimes of the younger Tippett), Hoddinott's is very much music of the night, dark, solemn but always imposing.

Did not know he was older than Mathias, I understand he married Mathias'es widow?
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2013, 01:28:00 pm »

I think not. Hoddinott married in 1953 and his widow survives him.
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Jolly Roger
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« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2013, 08:32:05 pm »

I think not. Hoddinott married in 1953 and his widow survives him.
Sorry..thought I read that years ago...I must be badly mistaken and can find no information that corraborates this.
I do wonder if the men were close freinds however.
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