George Dyson (1883-1964) has been relatively well served on disc the last decade and a half or so. He was a contemporary of Bax, among others, but his music seems to be cast in the mold of Bantock and Elgar more than his contemporary - it is all pitched at a slightly lower level of energy and invention than any of them, however. Dyson's music is for the most part worthy more than inspired, and I can, to be honest, think of composers equally worthy of a fraction of the revival Dyson's music has received. He wrote much choral music and choral and orchestral music, always sturdy and solid and Victorian in sound, but exhibiting a certain ability on the part of the composer to write well for the voice.
Nebuchadnezzar is one of Dyson's many substantial works for soloists, chorus and orchestra. It is relatively conservative in idiom (though there might be traces of Walton's near-contemporaneous Belshazzar's Feast). If you think 47 minutes of worthy, Victorian, dour Old Testament setting might be too much of a not-too-good thing, you may very well be right. There are some good things in Nebuchadnezzar, for sure - mostly some skillful vocal writing - but there isn't a single memorable theme and the whole thing is moving along at a dangerously slow pace. It is, to be honest, a rather taxing experience of dreary blandness; only occasionally in part II do you ever get the feeling that the music is moving towards anything. But how I wish some of the more interesting unknown music out there could receive performances and recordings like this one. The soloists are good; the orchestral playing splendid, and there is no doubt that Hickox presents the best possible advocacy for a cause that is unfortunately lost.
The most interesting thing on the disc, however, is the wonderfully atmospheric, small Woodland Suite - gentle and gossamer light but beautifully colorful and shaded. The other, short pieces that fill out the disc are eminently forgettable. But everything is very well played and recorded, and while the music here (maybe apart from the Woodland Suite) cannot honestly be termed interesting or particularly attractive, the glorious presentation makes me unwilling to dismiss it completely. If you are interested in Dyson's music, go for the symphony or The Canterbury Pilgrims, but even if you like what you hear there, it is not obvious that the disc at hand is one that needs to be added to your collection.