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A Dylan Thomas Trilogy review Coriglianos Mahlerian-scale vision

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Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
Singers and orchestra rose well to the challenge of the composers work, more secular oratorio than song cycle

John Corigliano felt an immediate affinity with the poetry of Dylan Thomas when first encountering it as a 21-year-old in 1959, six years after Thomass death in the composers native New York. Forty years in gestation, A Dylan Thomas Trilogy was completed in 1999, but this performance, in Thomass native Swansea for the centenary of his birth, surely marked a significant personal landmark for Corigliano.

Having already set Thomass Fern Hill, then Poem on his Birthday, Corigliano chose Poem in October, to balance his reflection on the three ages of man. But, given the length and emotional landscape of these poems, the work is less an orchestral song cycle than a secular oratorio conceived on a Mahlerian scale. The combined resonance of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBCNOW Chorus, in the splendid Brangwyn Hall acoustic, made an undeniably strong impact, with conductor Grant Llewellyn handling the vast span with instinctive sympathy.

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