More goodies from the
Alwyn-Naxos series. This one includes
two world premiere recordings, always
an enticing prospect for enthusiasts
and completists. And the performances
are as assured as before, which ensures
a guarantee of corporate confidence
in the repertoire.
Dances are charming and evocative
pieces, rather different in texture
and intent from the more rustic evocations
of, say, Rubbraís Farnaby Dances.
The vigorous tabor intimations of the
first dance fuse with the salute to
the later Elizabeth in the second in
the form of a gentle waltz. The Pavane
is warm and delightful and the second
Elizabethan Age is embraced with a frisky
rumba rhythm, which shows its Janus
face by rendering up a hornpipe as well.
Dance is a tone poem with
its complement of Bax and Holst moments.
Itís at its most appealing however in
the more verdant and openhearted sections
where Straussian effulgence reigns.
The more cock-eyed folkloric sections
have a distinctly Graingeresque cast
and are full of fun and enjoyment.
The Concerto for
Oboe, Harp and Strings was written
during the War and was premiered by
Evelyn Barbirolli. Here Jonathan Small
plays with no little eloquence and timbral
variety in its cause. The pastoral is
not entirely unclouded, and its modal
moments are calming and stoic. The first
part, Andante e rubato, at one
point even seems to pay homage Ė explicit
or unconscious itís hard to tell which
- to Deliusís The Walk to the Paradise
Garden. The second part is necessarily
more active and incisive with its folksy
fugato and the slow central section.
The quiet and reflective passage preceding
the final flourish of optimism is highly
Aphrodite in Aulis
is, with The Innumerable Dance,
previously unrecorded. Itís a small
five-minute eclogue inspired by a George
Moore novel. Itís not desperately distinctive.
Much the same can be said of the 1951
Festival March, which
has its share of off-the-peg Waltonisms
about it. A work cut from a different
cloth is the following yearís The
Magic Island. Inspired by The
Tempest this is a rightly admired
and successful work. The sense of tension
and zestful release is ever audible
and even Alwynís clearly quite deliberate
Wagnerian evocations take their rightful
place in this fulsome and engaging score.
Itís still more engaging in the composerís
own recording with the LPO on Lyrita.
There the strings are more suave and
tactile, rhythms bite more deeply and
Alwyn "places" the Caliban
incidents with greater immediacy and
dynamism. If you want personality and
a fine tension-menace quotient youíll
find it there. By comparison Lloyd-Jones
sounds rather undercooked.
Still letís not leave
moaning. Two premiere recordings at
bargain cost and generally excellent
performances are not to be spurned lightly.
see also review
by Rob Barnett
British Composers on Naxos page