Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 29 in A major K201 (1774) [21:16]
William Alwyn (1905-1985)
Symphony No. 3 (1956) [31:09]
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
Symphonic Dances Op.64 (c.1896) [24:57]
BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Grieg)/Sir Thomas Beecham
rec. Royal Festival Hall, 10 October 1956 (Mozart; Alwyn); Studio 1 Maida Vale, 25 December 1955 (Grieg). Mono ADD
The Beecham Collection - Beecham in Concert
SOMM BEECHAM23 [77:57]
Experience Classicsonline

I will confess that the raison d’ętre of this CD is the William Alwyn symphony - at least to me. Of course this is not to suggest that the Mozart and the Grieg are not important works. It almost goes without saying that the Beecham versions of these compositions add to our historical understanding and more importantly to our sheer enjoyment of music. Yet a quick look at the Arkiv CD catalogues shows some 89 recordings of the former and 21 of the latter. They can take care of themselves. Whereas, the Alwyn is represented by only three recordings in addition to the present CD - and this work is regarded as one of his masterpieces! In addition the Alwyn Symphony presented here is a recording of the first performance. For that alone this is a truly historic disc.
That said it is interesting to note that Beecham was deemed to be a great Mozartian. Yet it is clear that, by and large, he was attracted to the later symphonies, so the A major is a relatively rare excursion into these ‘earlier’ works. The quality of the playing is without doubt: the conductor brings his own magic to this fine work. It certainly served as a notable precursor to the first performance of the Alywn Symphony on that October evening in 1956.
The Grieg is fantastic. I have known these Symphonic Dances for many years but I never cease to be amazed at just how good they are. Ok, I concede that they will never have the popular clout of the Piano Concerto or the Peer Gynt Suite – but they are truly beautiful pieces. Lasting just over 25 minutes this is a considerable work that is as interesting as it is well written. It is not too great a stretch of the imagination to hear pre-echoes of Delius in some parts of these pieces. Beecham is not normally associated with the work of Edvard Grieg; however he did explore the relatively small amount of orchestral music during the post-Great War years.
The main event here is the Third Symphony by William Alwyn. Interestingly this first performance was supposed to have been conducted by Sir John Barbirolli, however he was taken seriously ill. Beecham was the replacement. The composer wrote that “Sir Thomas was punctilious in the preparation of the score and gave a remarkable performance, full of fire and vitality.”
Alwyn modestly notes that the Symphony was well received by the musical press. In fact they were unanimous in their opinions. But perhaps the greatest praise came from John Ireland: who never, himself, composed a symphony. He wrote to Alwyn that “Your Symphony is the finest British Symphony since the Elgar 2.”
William Alwyn’s Third Symphony was written during 1955-1956. It had been commissioned by the BBC in 1954 and was dedicated to Richard Howgill, the then Controller of Music. Historically this must be one of the few major musical works where the composer kept a diary recording the progress of the piece. It is worth quoting his words as to how he developed the material for this work. He writes “… I use a new kind of twelve note system, the twelve notes used in a different way - in a tonal manner … I divided the twelve notes into two groups – eight semitones only are used in the first movement – the remaining four in the second movement.” He noted that in the last movement, “the two groups are used in opposition, but are combined in the final pages of the symphony as a comprehensive whole.”
If the foregoing gives the impression that this is a mathematical work that lacks inspiration or originality, then that is not the case. Alwyn has used his method lightly. The entire symphony is wholly consistent with itself. Quoting the composer again: “the thematic ideas on which the whole symphony is based are stated clearly and I hope concisely in the first few pages.” It is the development of these themes that gives the sense of genius to this work. This is a “stormy and passionate work, strongly rhythmic in the outer movements but finding tranquillity and repose in the middle movement” and more crucially in the last pages of the work.
It is a piece that can be mined for influences. Surely the worst thing that could be said is that it is merely ‘film’ music. Of course Alwyn was a master of that particular art – but he does not write disconnected episodes here - unity and design are critical to this work. Holst is never too far away in this piece – but this is no ‘Cold War’ Planets Suite. Again Vaughan Williams’ Fourth and Fifth Symphonies may have been influential, but are not parodied.
The last word must go to David Drew writing in the December 1956 issue of the Musical Times. He states that “because the unity is at the heart and not on the surface of the music, one is spared those embarrassing displays of motivic machinery which so often betray second-rate musical intelligence.”
The sound quality of this disk is not perfect: but then again it is over fifty years since these recordings were laid down. They were done in ‘glorious’ mono. That said, the listening experience is thoroughly enjoyable. And there is no doubt that they are live – the coughs and the shuffles and applause from the audience and players have been retained. From the perspective of the William Alywn it is a perfect record of a magnificent first performance of a work that was to become regarded as a major contribution to the British Symphonic Project.
Naturally, I recommend all enthusiasts of William Alwyn’s music to buy this CD. However I must say that the Grieg is great too!
John France

see also review by Rob Barnett


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.