Programme Notes

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Short Biography

Dafydd Bullock was born in Llanberis, Wales. His compositions include 27 symphonies, 18 symphonic poems, 2 operas, 2 Requiems, two Mass settings, 28 string quartets and other chamber music and many songs and pieces for piano. He has written scores for 2 films. Works have been published in the British Isles, Belgium and Luxembourg. His work is represented on 36 CDs to date. In 1993 and 1994 he won first prizes at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, and in 1995 he was honoured in Wales by admission to the highest Order of the Gorsedd of Bards. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2005. His predominantly lyrical music has been performed and broadcast in many countries, including Japan, China, Brazil and Colombia as well as widely within Europe.

Dafydd Bullock wurde in Llanberis, Wales geboren. Zu seinen Kompositionen gehören 26 Sinfonien, 18 sinfonische Dichtungen, 2 Opern, 2 Messen, 2 Requiems, 28 Streichquartette und weitere Kammermusik und viele Klavierwerke. Er hat 2 Filmmusiken komponiert. Verschiedene Werke werden in Großbritannien, Belgien, und Luxemburg veröffentlicht. Bis jetzt hat er 36 CDs aufgenommen.  1993 und 1994 gewann er erste Preise im Fach Komposition an der National Eisteddfod of Wales. Im Jahre 1995 wurde er in Wales durch Verleihung des höchsten Grads der Gorsedd of Bards geehrt und in 2005 wurde er Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Seine hauptsächlich lyrische Musik wurde in vielen Ländern gesendet und aufgeführt einschließlich Japan, China, Brasilien und Columbien, sowie in Europa.

Longer Biography

Dafydd Bullock combines several careers: composer, conductor, performer and teacher. His compositions are predominantly lyrical and communicative, although dissonance is not excluded.

His music is extremely well received by audiences throughout the world. Compositions include 27 symphonies, 18 symphonic poems, 2 operas, 2 Requiems, 2 Mass settings, 28 string quartets and other chamber music and many songs and pieces for piano. Performers in many countries have recorded his music, ranging from the Czech Republic to Argentina. His 37 CDs to date encompass string quartets, symphonies, choral and vocal music, music for piano and an opera. Many works are published in Wales, England, Belgium, Luxembourg and the USA. Notable recent commissions have included the Requiem for Jan Palach, commissioned by the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic (performances and  recording) and a Suite for Two Guitars (Argentine-Welsh Guitar Duo  - performances and recording from August 2009). Work has been performed and broadcast in countries ranging from Colombia, Brazil and Peru to Japan, China and Australia as well as most European states, with such varied stations as the BBC World Service, Radio France, RTBF 1 (Belgium), Konzertsender (Netherlands), RTL (Luxembourg), Radio 1 Prague and Radio Mozambique.

Performers have included his sister, the dramatic soprano Susan Bullock, Virtuosi di Basso, the 12 solo celli of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the Arcata Ensemble and Dragon Strings (electric string orchestra) in Wales, harpist Elinor Bennett, the English String Quartet, the Jan Becher Quartet in Prague, numerous ensembles in Brazil, concert pianists Ronald Stevenson (Scotland), Leonardo Anglani (Belgium) and Antonio Eduardo (Brazil and Argentina), guitarist Richard Durrant (England) the choir of St. Margaret’s, London, the choral ensemble Trajecti Voces in Utrecht, Netherlands as well as concerts with his own ensembles, Eurocantica, Vox, the International Choir in Luxembourg and Mosel Voices.

In addition, he has received critical acclaim as a conductor, specialising in the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, as well as romantic and contemporary performances. As a hobby, he has written four novels. More information is readily available on his website

Programme Notes

… these are in no particular order and in various languages. 

Pot luck, but if a text is needed, please contact me, even at short notice!

Programme Notes: Symphonic Poems


Opus 61, Luxembourg, 199

Awarded the Meirion Williams Prize, National Eisteddfod of Wales, 1993

Following tradition, in Nant Gwrtheyrn a bride would run and hide on the morning of her wedding. When the day of the wedding of Rhys and Meinir arrived, everybody gathered in Clynnog Church, except for Meinir who headed for the hills. Playing their part, Rhys’ friends searched high and low for Meinir, but to no avail. On discovering his bride was missing, Rhys returned to the Nant and frantically searched for Meinir’s hiding place.

Fraught with worry, Rhys spent months searching for his sweetheart, and slowly lost his mind. Then one stormy night, while out wandering the heath, Rhys took shelter beneath his favourite oak tree. As he cowered beneath the tree, a bolt of lightning struck the trunk, splitting it in half. To Rhys’ disbelief the splintered tree revealed a skeleton wearing a wedding dress. Overcome by emotion, poor Rhys collapsed and died beside his beloved bride.


Opus 69, Luxembourg, 1993

Cilmeri: the place where on December 11th, 1282, Llywelyn, Prince of Wales, was betrayed, killed and butchered by English invaders. The blackest day in the history of Wales.


Opus 122, Luxembourg and Fachwen, 1999

An attempt to evoke the autumnal Dolbadarn Castle, Llanberis. I was born a few hundred metres from this historic place, and took its name as my own Bardic name.

Y Chwarel (The Quarry)

Opus 123, Fachwen, 1999

Inspired by many things, including this photo of a lone bugler (actually from the Penrhyn Quarry), the Dinorwic Quarry near which I was born and where many, many relatives worked, by the bell of the Quarry Hospital, the relentless water-driven industrial machinery and by the need to remember how many lives were used up and spat out by the foreign owners of what is now an industrial wasteland. Hence the quotations from my favourite Welsh Hymn: In Memoriam.

Brass Quintet

The Quintet was written in 1994. It is in three movements, each of which seeks to evoke and exploit a different aspect of the brass instrumental tradition. Thus, in the first movement the music ranges from organum to polyphony to the stile concertato of the Venetian tradition and the Gabrielis; the second movement blends a chorale with romantic solo passages, and the third combines explosive fanfares with rhythmical games.

Slate Fanfare, for Slate Xylophone and Brass

Having come across a xylophone made from slate at the Llanberis Slate Museum, I couldn't resist the challenge of writing for it, and so on April 13th, 1999 I wrote the Slate Fanfare, Opus 120.

As well as the (unique?) slate xylophone, or 'Llechiffôn' there are two trombones and a tuba. The brass instruments provide a kind of evolving chorus or ritornello section, while the xylophone part, which is derived from a fragment of the Welsh National Anthem, also changes, becoming more and more challenging as the music progresses.

Mass in D, Opus 40

The Mass in D was written in 1989, and substantially revised and orchestrated in 2003. It now takes its place beside the Missa Cambrensis (Welsh Mass) the Missa Brevis and the Requiem. The idiom is essentially lyrical, with occasional blue and even sour notes to be heard. The Credo attempts to be a Credo of 'all the Faiths' in that the imitative dislocations undermine somewhat the tradition interpretation of this text. Otherwise this is a more or less traditional setting, albeit with a background of quiet menace reflecting the troubled circumstances of its composition.

Passacaglia for Strings, Opus 74

A series of variations which gradually evolve to an impassioned statement of the theme, Merch Ifanc, the bass of which forms the passacaglia bass pattern, which then devolve back to their original state. Written in Luxembourg in 1994.

Requiem, Opus 72

This Requiem, like every other, is deeply personal. It was begun in 1994 following the death of my father, put aside, and completed at my house in Wales in the weeks following the death of my mother, in 2000.

Written for mixed choir, soprano solo and string orchestra, the seven movements are more or less based upon the texts and the format of the funeral service given for my mother. As well, some of the traditional Latin is used. The work includes settings of Psalm 121 and the Nunc Dimittis which also provides the final Meditation. The third movement, 'Death is nothing at all', for Soprano Solo, is the very core of the work, and its 'message'.

The story of the Requiem is quite amazing. It was written with great reluctance and very rapidly. Almost before the (digital) ink was dry, Dirkjan Horringa phoned from the Netherlands to ask if, by chance, I might happen to have a ….. Requiem! … for Trajecti Voces to perform in 2001. We never looked back!

The very beautiful performances given by the choir, orchestra and soloists and the inspired conducting of Dirkjan Horringa have had a profound effect on every audience. Miraculously, the recording of the most moving of the initial concerts is not only technically perfect but also free from the normal audience noises which all too often can intrude.

I regard both performance and recording as absolutely definitive, and am deeply grateful to all involved.

Prague Serenade, Opus 99

Following a strenuous week in Prague in February, 1997, recording my second and third symphonies, I arrived back in Luxembourg to discover that the airline had lost my luggage, containing scores, stick and ... master tapes. In a state of incandescent stress, still in hat and coat, I sat at the piano and hammered out a piece of music. The result was ... the Prague Serenade, perhaps the happiest and most felicitous music I have ever written. Certainly not what I expected. The music is a homage to Prague, to Dvorak (outer sections) and to the Janacek of Jenufa (central part). Perhaps I should lose my luggage more often ... (it did turn up eventually!)

Gwenllian: Fantasia for 12 Celli, Opus 150

Gwenllian, eine Fantasie für Solo Celli und Bassi, wurde für Virtuosi di Basso 2003 geschrieben, und uraufgeführt und aufgenommen in Prag. Gwenllian war die letzte walisische Prinzessin von Wales. Sie starb in englischer Gefangenschaft nach der Eroberung von Wales im Jahre 1282. Die Musik reflektiert das Thema eines unnötigerweise verschwendeten Lebens. Im Mittelteil erklingt das walisische Volkslied Merch Ifanc - ein junges Mädchen am Morgen, verheiratet am Mittag und eine Witwe am Abend - Zeit verfliegt, Chancen nicht genutzt; es hätte alles anders sein können, wenn...

Gwenllian, a fantasia for twelve solo celli, was written especially for Virtuosi di Basso in 2003, who premiered and recorded it in Prague. Gwenllian was the last Welsh Princess of Wales. She died tragically in English captivity after the English conquest in 1282. The music reflects this theme of an unnecessarily wasted life. The central section introduces the beautiful Welsh folksong: Merch Ifanc - a young girl in the morning, married at noon, a widow by nightfall - time passes, opportunities and potential are lost, it could and should have been different …

Te Deum, Opus 157

This festive Te Deum was written to celebrate the first ten years of VOX. Composed in Wales in March 2005, its atmosphere of joyful exuberance reflects not only a celebration of the choir, but also the historic Welsh victory in the Six Nations Rugby Championship achieved (and celebrated!) the day before composition began.

Zlatá Řeka, Opus 161

Zlatá Řeka, Opus 161, was written in Luxembourg in 2006 following the premiere of Cysgodion (Shadows) given by Virtuosi di Basso. Inspired by the sight of the River Vltava, as seen from the terrace outside the Smetana Museum in Prague. The music is simple, with two alternating elements which eventually combine: triplets, representing the swirling waters at the weir, and a lyrical tribute to Smetana, and indeed to Prague.

Requiem for Jan Palach, Opus 182

This Requiem, written in July, 2008, does not offer visions of sanctity, paradise and redemption. Nor is it a celebration of life, or death. By adding to some of the traditional Latin text mighty lines from Jan Hus (some of which are inscribed on his monument in the Old Town Square in Prague), some graffiti   which appeared, very briefly, on the Wenceslas Monument just after Jan Palach’s death, and which were rapidly removed, and other words from the Prague of 1968 and 1969 as well as Article One of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the music seeks to confront the horror of a despairing suicide, the smell of petrol and burning flesh and desperation in the face of overwhelming political brutality.

Traditional consolation (in the shape, here, of two quotations from the sweetest of Requiems, that of Gabriel Fauré) is irrelevant, and thus violently dispensed with. Eternal Light is replaced by the incandescence of flames. Enduring values are sought. The hope implied by ethical statements is subordinated to the vital necessity of remembering.

The music is tonal, despite dissonance, and cyclical. Themes and motifs recur, particularly an organ phrase which seeks to evoke rising heat and flame. At times anguished, the music resolves into stable tonalities associated with enduring ethical concepts. In other places the treatment is almost bucolic, and perhaps with a feel of Bohemia. There is a place for innocence.

It has been an honour to write this work, in memory of Jan Palach and of the others who suffered, protested and fought for us all in Prague.

Toto requiem, složené během července 2008, neobsahuje vize svatosti, ráje a vykoupení. Ani není oslavou života nebo smrti. Cílem této kompozice, ve které bylo do tradičního latinského textu dodáno pár řádek z monumentálního husitského chorálu, několik graffiti a dalších hesel z Prahy z let 1968 a 1969, jakož i Článek 1 Všeobecné deklarace lidských práv Organizace spojených národů, je konfrontace hororu zoufalé osoby páchající sebevraždu, zápachu benzínu a hořícího lidského těla a beznaděje s všudypřítomnou politickou brutalitou.

Tradiční útěcha (zde ve formě dvou citací z nejsladšího requiem, requiem složeného Gabrielem Fauré) není relevalntní, a je tudíž obejita. Věčné světlo je nahrazeno žárem plamenů. Hledají se trvalé hodnoty. Naděje obsažená v morálních prohlášeních je podřízena zásadní potřebě nezapomenout.

Komponovat tuto skladbu, k uctění památky Jana Palacha a dalších, kteří trpěli, protestovali a bojovali v Praze za nás všechny, byl skutečný horor.

Navzdory disonancím, je tato hudba tonální a cyklicky komponovaná. Motivy a náměty se opakují, zejména varhanní motiv, jenž má evokovat rostoucí žár a plameny. Občas mučivá a úzkostná hudba se rozpouští do stálých a vyrovnaných tonalit, spojených s trvalými morálními hodnotami. Jiné pasáže skladby jsou skoro bukolické, a rovněž snad s českým nádechem. Je tam prostor pro nevinnost.

Dieses Requiem wurde im Auftrag von der tschechischen Botschaft in Luxembourg im Juli 2008 komponiert, am 29. Januar 2009 uraufgeführt und am 12. Februar 2009 in der St. Martinskirche zu Dudelange in Luxembourg aufgenommen. Das Requiem bietet keine Traumbilder an, weder von der Heiligkeit, noch von dem Paradies noch von der Erlösung. Um so weniger stellt das Werk ein Lebensfeier oder ein Todesfeier dar. Indem der Komponist dem herkömmlichen lateinischen Text die mächtigen Verse des Jan Hus (von denen einige auf dessen Denkmal in der Prager Altstadt geschrieben stehen), sowie einige Graffiti, die kurz nach dem Tod Jan Palachs auf dem Wenzelsplatz-Denkmal erschienen, um dann rasch wieder gelöscht zu werden, und andere Texte aus Prag der Jahre 1968 und 1969 zusammen mit dem 1. Artikel der Allgemeinen Erklärung der Menschenrechte der Vereinigten Nationen, hinzufügt, strebt er dem Schrecken eines verzweifelten Selbstmordes, dem Geruch des Kraftstoffes sowie des verbrennenden Fleisches und der Verzweifelung angesichts einer überwältigenden politischen Gewaltätigkeit entgegen.

Traditioneller Trost (hier dargestellt in Form von zwei Zitaten aus dem süßesten aller Requiems, das von Gabriel Fauré) ist irrelevant, und wird deshalb heftig entbehrt. Ewiges Licht wird durch die Weißglut der Flammen ersetzt. Dauerhafte Werte werden gesucht. Die Hoffnung mitinbegriffen durch ethische Erklärungen, wird der vitalen Notwendigkeit des Erinnerns untergeordnet.

Trotz ihrer Dissonanz ist die Musik tonal und zyklisch konzipiert. Themen und Motive kehren wieder, insbesondere eine Orgelfrase, die bestrebt ist die auflodernde Hitze und Flamme hervorzurufen. Zuweilen beängstigt, löst sich die Musik in stabilen Tonalitäten auf, die andauernden, ethischen Begriffen zugesellt sind. An andere Stellen ist die Handlung beinahe bukolisch, und vielleicht mit einem Hauch aus dem Böhmischen. Dort findet auch die Unschuld ihren Platz.

Es war eine Ehre, dieses Werk zu schreiben im Gedenken an Jan Palach und all den anderen, die für uns in Prag gelitten, protestiert und gekämpft haben.

Voyage to Patagonia

Written for the Argentine-Welsh Guitar Duo in June 2009, this is a suite of six pieces which try to evoke the tension, excitement and nostalgia of the epic journeys made by many Welsh people to Patagonia in the nineteenth century. The flavour of the music hovers between Welsh and Patagonian (Argentinian), between anticipation (Cyn Gadael – Before Leaving) and hiraeth, or melancholy nostalgia (the Ffarwél pieces) before finally arriving at its destination (Rio Chubut – based on adaptations of two Patagonian-Welsh folksongs, one a kind of Tango, the other optimistically forward looking). The six movements are:

Cyn Gadael (Before Leaving)

Ar Lan y Môr (By the Side of the Sea)

Ffarwél i Dre' Caernarfon Lon (Farewell to Caernarfon)

Ffarwél i Aberystwyth (Farewell to Aberystwyth)

Hiraeth (Longing)

Rio Chubut (River Chubut)

Chica Latina, Opus 164

This work was written for the virtuosic Ni Ensemble, the prize-winning Luxembourg-based Brass Quintet who premiered the work in February, 2008, at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

A one movement work, it combines salsa and tango rhythms, often in disruptive five or seven beat bars with Mexican-flavoured trumpet fireworks, all of which is interrupted periodically by single and very loud trombone notes. Fun to hear, difficult to play!

Symphony No. 9, Hochkönig

Symphony No. 9, Hochkönig, is named after the Hochkönig mountain range in the Salzkammergut in Austria. A majestic and awesome place, which inspires, thrills and frightens with every visit. The music is based on the events of two days in the summer of 2009, and is therefore entirely personal in nature. The four movements may be labelled, in true Romantic fashion, Tension (my state of mind upon arrival in Maria Alm, nearby), Idyll (with woodwind dialogues and even a Ländler) Grandeur and Storm (Grandeur speaks for itself – the Storm derives from one of the most violent experiences of my life, a sudden and vicious electrical storm which caught me by surprise on an exposed slope below a summit. The hailstones might well have killed me ..... ) and .... Hochkönig, for me the most imposing place on the planet, a cathedral of stone ..... Precisely because this is a ‘Ninth’ I am not ashamed to evoke other, far greater works which share the number.