David Vaughan Thomas 1873-1934

David Vaughan Thomas yw un o’r cyfansoddwyr pwysicaf yng nghyfnod trawsnewidiol cerddoriaeth Gymreig o’r cyfnod Fictoraidd i’n hamserau ni. Unigolyn hynod ddawnus oedd o mewn sawl maes, yn fwyaf nodedig mewn mathemateg, sef ei radd gyntaf yn Rhydychen a thra oedd yn astudio yn y fan honno y daeth ei ddoniau fel pianydd i’r fei. Ar ôl cyfnodau’n addysgu yng Ngholeg y Gwasanaethau Unedig ac Ysgol Harrow, yn y pen draw ymgartrefodd yn ôl yn Abertawe lle mwynhaodd yrfa lawrydd. Cafodd BMus o Rydychen ym 1906 a’r DMus ychydig yn ddiweddarach ym 1911.

Datganwyd mai’r ‘bennod gyntaf yng nghydnabyddiaeth Lloegr o gerddoriaeth Gymreig’ oedd perfformiad cyntaf The Bard yn Llundain ym 1912 a dilynodd gyfansoddi gweithiau eraill ar raddfa fawr megis Llyn y Fan a’r Song for St. Cecilia’s Day. Mae’r gweithiau hyn yn dangos byd-olwg Ewropeaidd allblyg cyfansoddwr oedd yn prysur cael ei draed dano ar adeg gyffrous yn hanes cerddoriaeth. Cause célèbre ym myd cerddoriaeth Cymru am dipyn o amser oedd ei fethiant i sicrhau Cadair a Chyfarwyddiaeth Cerddoriaeth ym Mhrifysgol Cymru. Penodwyd Syr Walford Davies (a rhoi iddo ei deitl diweddarach) a’i gymeradwyo gan echel Gregynog-Stryd Downing a oedd wedi pwyso i’r swydd fynd i Davies. Daeth Thomas yn arholwr cartref a thramor ac ar daith yn Ne Affrica y bu farw ym mis Medi 1934.

Coleddai allbwn cerddorol Thomas sawl genre a gellid disgrifio ei ddatblygiad fel rhyw fath o ‘symudiad ymlaen i’r gorffennol’. O’r cyffyrddiadau Oes Fictoria yn ei ganeuon cynnar, lliwiwyd ei gerddoriaeth gan sawl nodwedd o orffennol Cymru fel a welir yn ei osodiadau o gynghanedd yn Saith o Ganeuon gan Dafydd ap Gwilym ac eraill – saith cân a gyfansoddwyd ym 1922 lle gosododd fesurau cymhleth cynnar gyda chryn effaith.

Gadawodd gyfanswm o ryw ddeugain o ganeuon gan gynnwys y fawreddog Berwyn gyda gwead hardd ei llinell felodig, dwy ar bymtheg o ran-ganeuon, anthemau, emyn-donau, cerddoriaeth siambr, trefniannau o ganeuon gwerin a thri gwaith cerddorfaol corawl ar raddfa fawr y sonnir amdanynt uchod.

David Vaughan Thomas is one of the most important composers in the transitional period of Welsh music from the Victorian era to our own times. He was a highly talented individual in several fields, most notably in mathematics which was his first degree at Oxford, and it was while studying there that his pianistic talents came to the fore. After periods teaching in the United Services College and Harrow School he eventually settled back in Swansea where he enjoyed a freelance existence. He took the Oxford BMus in 1906 and the DMus a little later in 1911.

The 1912 premiere of The Bard in London was heralded as the ‘first chapter of England’s recognition of Welsh music’ and it followed the composition of other large scale works such as Llyn y Fan and the Song for St. Cecilia’s Day. These works display the outward-looking Europeanism of a composer rapidly finding his feet at an exciting time in music history. His failure to obtain the Chair and Directorship of music in the University of Wales was a cause célèbre in Welsh music for a considerable time. Sir Walford Davies, as he later became, was appointed and approved by the Gregynog-Downing Street axis that pushed for the post to go to Davies. Thomas became a home and overseas examiner and it was on a journey in South Africa that he died in September 1934.

Thomas’s musical output embraced several genres and his development could be described as something of a ‘move forwards to the past’. From the Victorianisms of the early songs, his music was coloured by several features from the Welsh past as seen in his settings of cynghanedd in Saith o Ganeuon gan Dafydd ap Gwilym ac eraill – seven songs that set early complex metre to good effect and composed in 1922.

In all, he left some forty songs, including the majestic Berwyn with its beautifully spun out melodic line, seventeen part-songs, anthems, hymn tunes, chamber music, arrangements of folk songs, and the three large-scale choral orchestral works mentioned above.

 
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