Anglo-Welsh composer Dalwyn Henshall (b.1957) studied with William Mathias at UCNW and with Einojuhani Rautavaara at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki whilst in receipt of both a Welsh Arts Council Award to Young Artists and a Finnish Government State Scholarship. Subsequent doctoral and (Finnish Government funded) post-doctoral researches in Scandinavian and Finnish nationalism in music have profoundly affected his compositional style which has always been "mainstream traditional" even at at a time when this was deeply unfashionable.
Some pieces which do not appear here are an early Oboe Concerto dating from the composer's time at the Sibelius Academy, subsequently performed by David Cowley, Owain Arwel Hughes and the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra (as was, then); an (unperformed) Cello Concerto dates from the same time as well as an early commissioned work, "The Silent Land", a cycle of songs based on words by Christina Rossetti for tenor and piano, commissioned by the BBC for St David's Music Week in 1981. It received its first performance by Kenneth Bowen and Paul Hamburger.
Scores of some of these early pieces are available at Ty Cerdd, formerly the Welsh Music Information Centre.
Perennially running counter to fashionable trends - inevitably, to his artistic cost - and most emphatically anti-avant-garde, stylistically speaking, his music has grown from what the composer regards as the still hugely meaningful mainstream tonal traditions of European music, deliberately eschewing empty, sterile, vacuous and posturing modernism. (He maintains that post-modernism merely adds insult to injury!) Dalwyn Henshall's own work bears witness to his fundamental belief that the abandonment of the European musical lingua franca post-1946 with the encouragement of and at the spiteful behest of the Frankfurt school of aestheticians and the subsequent wholesale adoption of one avant-garde fashion after another has been a totally unmitigated disaster for music lovers and composers in pursuit of a true voice everywhere.
He reckons that we have mislaid harmony (as well as much else) along the way. Parallels with contemporary art, literature and architecture are not lost. The general aesthetic experience of much late 20th century art stemming entirely, in is view, from the collapse of confidence in the tonal ethic, is that of despair and futility. Much "new" music seems incapable of expressing anything else. Once, to his vast (and ever continuing) amusement, the composer was accused of belonging to "The Hecklers" - a sure mark of approbation and confirmation that he was/is on the right track - if ever there was one! His music was also damned with the verdict "Quelle horreur!" by an international jury adjudicating a senior teaching position.
Symptomatic of the general malaise that has afflicted much new music, in his opinion, is a profound lack of understanding of structural and idiomatic harmony and to this end he is engaged on a manual of composition which will focus on precisely such issues of large- and small-scale tonal manipulation, tentatively called "Composition Matters?". (To which the answer is - "probably not!")
For the composer, a career best, as the most satisfying accolade from a concert-goer (given at the first performance of the Piano Concerto) was "that's the best piece of contemporary music I've heard in 40 years. I actually enjoyed it!". And why not? The Concerto was rejected by the BBC Reading Panel!
Curiously, his Three Welsh Dances for harp (pub. Curiad) have proved remarkably resilient and have featured on Classic FM. Is Radio 3 too elitist, he wonders?
Part of the reason that the composer regards the Piano Concerto as a "best" is probably that the concerto "problem" - at the beginning of the 21st century (a time when most avant garde or hardline-modernist composers would avoid the concerto form and concertante textures like the plague) - can only be answered by whole-heartedly embracing the format together with all that it represents within its heritage. The same - writ large - applies to symphonic textures. No accident, then, that the concerto is his favourite musical form. The eighth, the Concerto for Percussion, commissioned by the Swansea Festival was performed there in 1993 by Evelyn Glennie, Richard Hickox and the BBCNOW. (The tenth, the Clarinet Concerto, narrowly and mercifully escaped bureaucratic destruction!)
The concertos, in particular, like much of his recent piano music, have a strong autobiographical element, and the composer has just completed his eleventh concerto - for trumpet. The latest works on the stocks are a Requiem inspired by tango and Latin rhythms and using words by Emily Dickinson and John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester interspersed between selected sections of the traditional text and a Violin Concerto.
Pieces which are available on this website may be freely printed/performed where appropriate but public performance and/or broadcast must be logged with the PRS. Fully scored versions (score and parts) of some pieces - and others not published here - are available by request.
There are some works which are not available at this website for reasons of copyright, particularly the Sonata for Violin and Harp (which might still be available from Salvi), and Three Welsh Dances for Harp (Curiad) and a few pieces for double bass and piano (Recital Music).
Please say "hello", if you wish by sending a message through this site, or directly to firstname.lastname@example.org - he will be pleased to hear from some! Y mae croeso i chwi ysgrifennu ataf - os y dymunwch. Byddai Dalwyn yn bles iawn clywed! (Retracter) ... (lire la suite)
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