Who on earth is Daniel Jones?

Monday 8 October 2012, 12:15

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton

I must confess that until last week I had never heard of the composer Daniel Jones. Sometimes a composer's canon will disappear from the repertory with good reason (unplayable, unlistenable, unprogrammeable), but there are other instances when it would appear that a composer has just been unfortunate - through circumstance, through lack of opportunity, or a myriad number of other reasons.

I think it very unfortunate that Daniel Jones' Cello Concerto is not more widely known. This is just my personal opinion, and I'm sure there will be plenty of people ready to argue with me in the coffee queue about this, but I didn't think it was just a good work - I thought it was a very fine concerto.

Of course, one cannot make a judgement on a composer's entire output based on enjoying a single work. That would be like saying you loved all of the recorded work of East 17 based on your enjoyment of their 1994 UK Christmas number one Stay Another Day. That would just be silly. However, after hearing Jones' Cello Concerto, I am keen to hear more.

It is timely, therefore, that we shall also be performing his Symphony No 11 at the Swansea Festival this weekend. I've had my practice part out, and had a good look through it.

Alas, I could not find a recording of it (there are few recordings of Jones' work - the complete string quartets are available on the Chandos label, and a handful of his symphonic works on the Lyrita label), but the musical language appears to be fairly similar to that of the concerto.

In Jones' obituary, published in The Independent on 28 April 1993, Geraint Lewis writes that Jones' music "never quite touched a nerve with Welsh audiences". I think this is something we are all guilty of - dismissing the music of our countrymen as in some way inferior to that of other composers. However, does this attitude not simply feed a feeling of parochial inferiority to the perceived hubs of musical creativity and innovation?

Just because a composer or musician is from your own doorstep does not mean they are second-rate. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales is dedicated to nurturing Welsh composers, each season running composer workshops, and frequently programmes music by Welsh composers. It is our continued responsibility, and duty, to work alongside these composers, giving them the opportunity to develop their voice, and giving them necessary exposure.

I wish I could have met Daniel Jones. He was a fascinating character, a close friend of Dylan Thomas, and also worked as a code breaker during World War Two, and I am very much looking forward to becoming familiar with more of his music in this, the centenary of his birth.

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    Comment number 1.

    Great article Laura - when I spotted Daniel Jones on the blog title, it jogged my memory about the time I read a book titled 'Dylan Thomas's Swansea, Gower and Laugharne', which made mention of Daniel Jones. The other thing that comes to mind about his friendship with Dylan Thomas was a place called the 'Kardomah' (I might have spelt this wrong - I think it was a cafe in Swansea which was blitzed?) - there was a high-minded social set, the 'Kardomah club' who used to meet there, I think the journalist Wynford Vaugh-Thomas was part of the set as well? Didn't know about the code breaking, interesting character.

 
 

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