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Akallabêth and other Tolkien works (PFCD059) £12.50

Composed by Paul Corfield Godfrey

This is the first recording completely devoted to the music of Paul Corfield Godfrey, and concentrates on pieces associated with his setting of epic scenes from J R R Tolkien’s unfinished work The Silmarillion, the largest-scale musical work written in Wales in the twentieth century. The composer was born in London and after a period of residence in Ireland now lives in Wales, studying at various times with Alan Bush and David Wynne. His compositions include four symphonies: various orchestral, chamber and instrumental works: songs and choral works: and operas, including The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric and Arcturus, both performed in Cardiff and elsewhere.

The recording comes from sessions held in Hereford in November 2016, in excellent sound and with a marvellous team of young performers including Adam Jondelius (baritone), Connor Fogel (piano), Andrew Henley (tenor) and Tara McSwiney (soprano). The disc includes seven songs to words by J R R Tolkien, two instrumental pieces inspired by episodes in The Silmarillion, and the first complete performance of the song cycle Mysteries of Time which includes a number of musical references to Tolkien.

Reviewing performances by Adam Jondelius of some of these songs earlier in the same year, Gwynn Parry-Jones on MusicWeb International commented: “Godfrey has long been an admirer of [Tolkien]’s works; he has set many of them to music, including an entire operatic cycle based on the stories of The Silmarillion. I earnestly hope we’ll see these staged one fine day; apart from anything else it would be a welcome corrective to those Peter Jackson movies. The Song of the Wanderer begins ‘Roads go ever ever on, under rock and under tree’, to which Godfrey responds with an undulating vocal line that perfectly reflects the poetic idea. Along the way, there are magical touches, such as the dark shift of harmony at the words ‘under mountains in the moon’. Jondelius’s supple tones were perfect for this evocative number, and the expressive postlude for the piano was beautifully played. The Song of the Prisoner (‘In Western lands beneath the sun’) came as a complete contrast, the singer sometimes using a parlando style of utterance, and the piano setting the scene with dark, heavy chords.” Of the same performance, Brian Newbould also commented: “I did enjoy your songs - though from the limited perspective of the page-turner's chair, I couldn't see the words and was of course focussed intermittently on the approach of the next page-turn. But at least I found your musical language spoke to me and I would have welcomed the opportunity to listen from the audience perspective.”

Regarding the setting of The seven woods of Coole from Mysteries of Time, Gwyn Parry-Jones said: “Yeats’s words sing out all by themselves, and Godfrey has clearly been inspired to a passionate statement. Starting low down in the baritone voice, the melodic line achieves great power of declamation, borne along on thrilling waves of piano arpeggios. And, as in the Tolkien songs, there is a deliciously elusive ending – soft, dense chords at the bottom of the piano, the final one quietly affirmative. This is a composer of considerable gifts, who chooses wonderful texts and has a rich understanding of the human voice and its capacities. It is enormously frustrating that none of this music is to my knowledge as yet in the recorded catalogue. I just hope an enterprising company will soon find the opportunity to correct that situation.” Well, here it is.

Paul Corfield Godfrey

Paul Corfield Godfrey
Paul Corfield Godfrey lives in Wales, studying composition and conducting with Alan Bush and David Wynne. His works as a composer include a cycle of epic scenes based on J R R Tolkien's The Silmarillion, extracts from which have been performed in Oxford. Other works have been performed in London and elsewhere throughout England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Hungary, America, Australia and New Zealand. He has appeared as a performer both on radio and television, and a number of his works have been broadcast.