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William ALWYN (1905-1985)
Film Music - volume 2

The Crimson Pirate (1952)
Green Girdle (1941)
Take My Life (1947) *
A Night to Remember (1958) - main title
The Card - suite (1952)
Desert Victory - suite (1952)
Svengali - Libera Me (1954)
The Winslow Boy (1948)
In Search of the Castaways (1962)
State Secret - suite (1950)
Susan Bullock (sop) (Take My Life; Svengali)
Canzonetta/Jeffrey Wynn Davies (Svengali)
BBCPO/Rumon Gamba
rec Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, 28-29 June 2001
CHANDOS CHAN 9959 [77.29]

This is Chandosís second collection of Alwyn film music.

The Crimson Pirate (the overture from which is on one of the Silva Screen Prague CDs) reeks of Baghdad and the casbah. We are into the same territory as Herrmann's Sinbad music with the odd cross-current of janissary music. Of course there is also some boozy Arnoldian humour in the bassoon writing at 3.32.

Green Girdle is much more romantic. I had just been listening to Muti's Scriabin and I thought of that as well as of Debussy. Other reference points include the playful enchantment and the skittering joy of Bridge's Enter Spring and the second of his Two Jefferies Poems.

Take My Love is given a superheatedly operatic spin with Susan Bullock not sparing the horses with her vibrato. A Night to Remember is all truculently surging lyricism punctuated by the rattle of the side drum. It even has a whistling siffleur to complete the picture - jaunty, winking, fluttery. A touch of Walton's Façade here. It has a rustic polka and a sentimental song of which Yuri Torchinsky's solo violin makes the most.

Alwyn's war work included the score for Desert Victory which has about it something of John Ireland's Epic March. It includes great work from the trumpets and a string sound that is both clean and lush. Track 13 sounds very much like the style of his fellow film wage-slave, Alan Rawsthorne.

The Winslow Boy, after its Elgarian prelude, has some of the hunted uncertainty of the score for Odd Man Out and the regretful nostalgia of some of Elgar's smaller pieces and of the Second Symphony.

Alwyn treats us to a flouncy dilly of a grand waltz in In Search of the Castaways as well as a raffishly no-holds-barred rumba à la Milhaud. It is uninhibited stuff though prolonged beyond the sustenance of its material. It parallels the calypso from The Rakes Progress in vol 1.

The music for State Secret reeks of Ruritanian bombast, spiked helmets, Warner Brothers uniforms, archimandrites and shakoes. The Grand Ball takes us back to the shipís waltz from the Castaways score. We are treated to the vulgar vaudeville raspberry of theatre music. There is also the hesitation and restraint of one of Herrmann's dangerous and irresistible long lyric string hymns in On the barge. The sunrise effulgence of the finale is touched heavily with a Ruritanian swagger stick.

This disc has all the thump and swoon of the Charles Gerhardt and George Korngold Classic Film Scores series with The BBC Phil doing the honours in place of Sidney Sax's National Philharmonic of yore.

The presentation is the stuff of which awards are made.

This set would not have existed without the painstaking and style-sensitive diligence of Philip Lane who had to reconstruct the scores from the film soundtracks. This series owes as much to Lane as CPO's Frankel film music owes to Dmitri Kennaway. It was all necessitated by the same crass studio attitude that consigned parts and scores to the landfill and incinerator. Long may such Lazarus-like reanimation continue.

Apart from the final section of Desert Victory, A Night to Remember and The Crimson Pirate these are premiere recordings.

And the good news ... yes more good news ... when you have had you fill of this there is still volume 1 on CHAN 9243 although with a different team - Hickox and the LSO and with the late Christopher Palmer as the reanimator.

If you would like to try some of the concert music then track down the Chandos versions of the Symphony No. 1 and the Lyra Angelica (for harp and orchestra) - you will not be disappointed. If you see the Lyrita Recorded Edition versions of these works then do not hesitate.

Another palpable hit from the Chandos film music. I hope that they do not let Mr Gamba slip from their grasp (outstanding in the 2003 Proms concert of British film music). Now how about Philip Lane and Maestro Gamba grappling with Brian Easdale's music for Black Narcissus and A Matter of Life and Death?

Rob Barnett

see also review by Ian Lace

Visit the William Alwyn Website

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