Tovey: Symphony in D, Bride of Dionysus: Prelude
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Sir Donald Tovey: Symphony in D, The Bride of Dionysus: Prelude

Catalogue Number: TOCC0033
EAN: 5060113440334
Release Date: 6 February 2006
Duration: 63:48

The Bride of Dionysus: Prelude
Symphony in D, Op. 32

Malmö Opera Orchestra, Sweden, orchestra
George Vass, conductor

Donald Francis Tovey (1875–1940) has long been known as one of the finest writers on music in English – but he saw himself primarily as a composer. His powerful and ambitious Symphony, written in 1913, has its stylistic roots in Brahms and Bruckner, and more distantly in Schumann, but Tovey was also open to contemporary developments: the harmonic procedures occasionally invoke Reger, the adventurous use of orchestral colour suggests Mahler and Nielsen and the scale – it is almost an hour in length – casts the work as a mighty cousin to Elgar’s two symphonies, finished not long before. This is its first recording since Tovey himself conducted a BBC broadcast performance in 1937. The disc opens with the first recording of the gentle, noble Prelude to Tovey’s only opera, The Bride of Dionysus, begun in 1907 and completed in 1918.

Booklet texts   (PDF)

Track Listing, MP3 Downloads and Streaming Samples

Track No. Track Title / Details Duration Sample Add to Cart
1 The Bride of Dionysus: Prelude (1918)

Sir Donald Francis Tovey, composer
Malmö Opera Orchestra, Sweden, orchestra
George Vass, conductor

(first recording)
5:46 play
2-5 Symphony in D, Op. 32 (1918)

Sir Donald Francis Tovey, composer
Malmö Opera Orchestra, Sweden, orchestra
George Vass, conductor

(first digital recording)
2 I. Allegro maestoso 18:24 play
3 II. Vivace ma non troppo presto 13:10 play
4 III. Canzone Dorica – Adagio 12:37 play
5 IV. Allegro con moto energico 13:51 play


Sir Donald Francis Tovey

Sir Donald Francis Tovey, composer

Malmö Opera Orchestra conducted by George Vass with producer Peter Shore in Studio 7, Swedish Radio

Malmö Opera Orchestra, Sweden, orchestra
[credit: Stefan Klaverdal]

George Vass

George Vass, conductor


Although lasting the best part of an hour and occasionally over-thickly scored, [the Tovey Symphony is] a work which held my attention throughout on a first hearing, not least due to Tovey’s keen sense of long-term dialogue and harmonic adventure, allied to a felicitous mastery of counterpoint. Brahms and Reger are the most obvious stylistic templates (the symphony’s arrestingly pregnant pianissimo opening idea even hints at Nielsen), yet a quiet individuality emerges from the radiant Canzonetta slow movement in particular, and the scampering Scherzo has a pleasingly mischievous twinkle in its eye.

A very creditable performance, too, from the Malmö Opera Orchestra under George Vass (there is, fascinatingly, a historic alternative from 1937 conducted by Tovey himself on Symposium which I have yet to hear), who also acquit themselves most ably in the noble Prelude to Tovey’s 1918 opera The Bride of Dionysus which launches proceedings. Good if not perhaps ideally ventilated sound, as well as exceptionally detailed notes and analyses by Peter R Shore and the composer respectively, add to the attractions of this courageous and valuable issue from Toccata Classics. Here’s hoping this enterprising young label will now go on to give us some of Tovey’s chamber music. [It does indeed intend to! - Martin Anderson, Toccata Classics]

Andrew Achenbach Gramophone

Scored for a Mahler-sized orchestra, it’s full of instrumental invention and of fascinating and/or glorious moments. […] the Prelude to Tovey’s Ariadne opera The Bride of Dionysus [is] a beautifully seamless fusion of Brahms and Parsifal.

The Malmö Orchestra does wonders with the technically taxing Symphony, due doubtless to appropriately firm direction from George Vass.

Calum MacDonald BBC Music Magazine


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