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William ALWYN (1905-1985) Chamber Music and Songs
Rhapsody for Piano Quartet (1938) [9:20]
Sonata impromptu for violin and viola (1939) [16:44]
Ballade for viola and piano (1939) [10:01]
Two Songs for voice, violin and piano (1931) [4:37]
Three Songs to words by Trevor Blakemore (1940) [6:40]
Violin Sonatina (1933) [10:30]
Three Winter Poems for string quartet (1948) [9:00]
Chaconne for Tom (1982) [3:24]
(piano); Roger Chase (viola); Madeleine Mitchell (violin);
Lucy Wilding (cello); Iain Burnside (piano); Madeleine
Mitchell (violin); Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone); John Turner
(recorder); Bridge String Quartet
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, March, August and October 2006 NAXOS 8.570340 [70:15]
The enterprising Naxos-Alwyn series
continues apace with this satisfying collection of chamber
music and songs, ranging from the very start of his career
to his penultimate composition. As a professional flautist
- he played in the LSO in the 1920s and 1930s, including
several performances and recordings under Elgar’s baton -
Alwyn’s instrumental compositions display that intimate knowledge
of each instrument which comes from being an orchestral player.
The Rhapsody for Piano Quartet (1938)
begins the disc energetically with its strongly rhythmic
opening. There is a memorable slow central section for muted
strings and viola solo before the animated mood returns and
the music builds to a lively conclusion.
The Sonata Impromptu for violin
and viola (1939) was composed for and dedicated to
Frederick Grinke and Watson Forbes, and is unusual in British
music of the time for its use of two solo instruments.
A brief prelude is followed by a set of variations which
display Alwyn’s ability to suggest fuller textures than
would be expected from these forces. The Finale alla
Capriccio rounds off the piece. From the same year
comes the Ballade for viola and piano, also written
for Watson Forbes. Lyrical at the outset, the work builds
to a more impassioned close.
Alwyn’s skill as a song-writer next: Two
Songs for voice, violin and piano, dating from 1931,
and Three Songs to Words by Trevor Blakemore from
1940. These demonstrate Alwyn’s sensitivity to word-setting
- in the Two Songs, his own poems. These songs are
well performed by Welsh baritone Jeremy Huw Williams with
Ian Burnside and Madeleine Mitchell.
The Sonatina for violin and piano was
composed in 1933 and comprises three contrasting movements
in an attractive melodic vein. A cool central episode is
framed by a fluid Allegro e grazioso and an ebullient
Three Winter Poems for String Quartet date
from 1948 but were not performed until twenty years after
the composer’s death.
The music eloquently captures the coldness and desolation
implied by the title. It is not dissimilar to Delius’s North
Country Sketches in that respect. This does not however
preclude an element of passion in the central Elegy.
Finally, Alwyn’s Chaconne for Tom,
written for the performer on this CD, John Turner, as a tribute
to fellow composer Thomas Pitfield. This is a very late work
dating from 1982 and is a touching and brief set of variations
on Happy Birthday to You, but imbuing that familiar
tune with an insubstantial, dreamlike character which the
scampering conclusion does not entirely drive away. A small-scale
piece but strangely memorable.
The performances on this CD are - as
usual from Naxos - of a very high standard and the various
performers sound as if they have been playing this music
all of their lives. The programme itself is intelligently
planned, with three chamber works comprising roughly the
first half, followed by the song settings, two further chamber
works and finally the late Chaconne.
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