Arwel Hughes: Oratorio Dewi Sant
Owain Arwel Hughes Conductor

August 2023

Arwel Hughes (1909-1988) was the tenth son of a Welsh coal miner, and his progress through life was a remarkable one. Along the way, he studied composition at the Royal College of Music where his tutors were Gordon Jacob, Gustav Holst and, importantly, Vaughan Williams. During WWII, he worked for the BBC, becoming Head of Music for BBC Wales. He actively encouraged and supported the music of his Welsh contemporaries who included Daniel Jones, Grace Williams, Alun Hoddinott and William Mathias. Arwel Hughes composed a symphony, two operas, three string quartets, a mass, much choral music and shorter orchestral pieces. The oratorio Dewi Sant (Saint David) was composed for the festival of Britain in 1951 as the main Welsh contribution. The text was written by his friend and colleague at the BBC, Aneurin Talfan Davies. The text is based on the life of the patron saint of Wales, David (c520 – 588AD). Davies drew inspiration from the 11th century Latin Vita, by Rhygyfarch who was the son of a Bishop of St Davids. The sound world of the oratorio has flashes of Wagner and Vaughan Williams, and, similar the latter composer, never looses sight of the fact that this music should be performed by amateur performers as well as professional choruses and orchestras. It is a work of great skill, and is both melodious and dramatic. This recording, conducted by the composer’s son, is the first recording in the original Welsh.


Sign Up