BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra
Mark Padmore, tenor: Neal Davies, bass-baritone
Any Biblical Oratorio written in Britain in the mid-1930s invited comparison with Walton's Belshazzar's Feast, premiered in 1931. George Dyson's Nebuchadnezzar, written for the 1935 Three Choris Festival, certainly has echoes of that masterpiece, in its sense of drama as much as its subject-matter. But if the harmoniousn and rhythmic writing isn't as audacious, Dyson makes up for it with a more obvious sense of spirituality, both in the affecting modal music that accompanies the ordeal in the burning fiery furnace and in the hymn of praise that concludes the work...
Matthew Rye, BBC Music Magazine, 12/1/2007
It seems inevitable, in discussing [Dyson's] work, that one must invoke William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast...A commission for the 1935 Three Choirs Festival, Nebuchadnezzar was composed only three years after the Leeds premiere of Walton's work. Though of an older generation, Dyson had clearly admired Walton's fresh take on the oratorio tradition, and had been inspired to a musical treatment of the story of the Burning Fiery Furnace that from time to time approaches the sincerest form of flattery. Once again the hubris of a Babylonian king is set at naught by a terrifying portennt;once again the splendour of his court is enumerated, once again his humbling is celebrated in a hymn of praise. The verses from the Book of Daniel contain many verbal echoes of Walton'st ext; sometimes these translate into musical-even accentual- echoes too...After the dramatic narrative and scene-setting of the first two parts of Mebuchadnezzar, it is the radiant and mysterious evocation of the angel walking with Shadrach and his companions in the flames of the furnace, and the King's astonishment, that the music really takes wing, and something of the radiance carries over into the concluding fourth part, an extended and heart-warming setting of the 'Benedicite' that makes a very satisfying conclusion to the design, very different from Walton's orgiastic paean of revenge. Indeed Nebuchadnezzar himself, rather than meeting the impious Belshazzar's sudden end, is sufficiently impressed by the miracle that, in Dyson's scheme, it is he who begins the singing of the 'Benedicite', which then flowers into the final hymn of praise...
Calum MacDonald, International Record Review, 12/1/2007