Alwyn the polymath: artist, author,
composer. Among these gifts music came
foremost. The other skills drew on and
were even the servants of the music.
Writing for the cinema inculcated in
him a discipline of writing to very
specific mood and time constraints.
Cinema paid the bills and allowed a
lifestyle and, later in life, a recording
programme only dreamt of by most other
composers of his generation. The screen
connection also meted out a punishment
in that success resulted in deprecation
for his concert works. The artistic
hegemony in the period 1950-75 found
his tonal-melodic style anathema and
let him know it.
a song-cycle for baritone and piano.
Benjamin Luxon is here captured in vocal
heyday. Long and sustained notes are
sung quietly without a trace of beat.
The poems are by Alwyn and were published
in a collection with his own line drawings.
These are songs of darkling beauty –
a common theme being night and twilight.
Only in Honeysuckle, the third
song, are the moods and exultation of
the English lyric masters referenced.
More typical are the grim lines and
finally the thrawn protest of Metronome.
Excitement bursts free from Paradise
- nothing of Cyril Scott's oozing
ecstasy. This is a nocturnal witch-ride
on the wings of a hurricane. Then comes
a different take on Hardy's actress
caught gazing into a mirror - here we
have the musings of the composer on
his elderly face gazing back from the
mirror ‘redeemed’ only by the child-innocent
is for solo flute, the instrument
with which Alwyn made his living in
the 1930s and 1940s. René Le
Roy performed it to enduring success
at the 1941 ISCM Festival in New
York. It has the gamin playfulness and
seraphic smile of the Bach suites. Only
the outer sections seem unequivocally
to come from the 20th century.
flute with harp in a work subtitled
‘Fantasy-Sonata’, written for husband
and wife duo Christopher Hyde-Smith
and Marisa Robles. This is an intensely
Gallic-perfumed piece, warm and from
some classic Arcady. It is a close cousin
to the Ravel Introduction and Allegro
and to Bax's Elegiac Trio.
The second CD takes
us back to the very earliest days of
Lyrita, recorded in the Itter home in
Burnham. The half-hour-long Fantasy-Waltz
sequence is dedicated to Richard
Farrell, the NZ pianist killed in a
car crash in 1958. The eleven waltzes
are varied, angular, fantastic impressions
often suggestive of liquid gesture and
movement. Some, such as the ballroom
candour of the Allegro Giocoso (6),
the Vivace (8) and the In
tempo piacevole (10) step outside
these boundaries and dally with Godowsky
but with style-Alwyn calling the shots.
In the earlier sonata Alla Toccata
the expected neo-classical casing
is to be found in the outer movements
with a touch of Lambert here and Prokofiev
there. The central sleepyhead Andante
has the gorgeous romance of the Lento
of the Classical Symphony. The
Fantasy-Waltzes have been recorded
twice before on Chandos: on CHAN8399
Ogdon and latterly by Julian Milford
The coupling is different in each case
(more Alwyn though!) and only the Lyrita
takes you back to the label’s earliest
days and includes the chamber works
as well – all for the price of a single
premium price disc.
The mono sound has
been well preserved and presented in
the case of the piano solos. This serves
to whet appetites for Lyrita’s complete
Ireland and Bax – not to mention other
treasures including the Moeran, White
and Jacob. The Decca-engineered 1970s
stereo disc is as good as the reputation
would lead you to expect.
The notes, in English
only, are from the original vinyls and
are by William Mann and Joan Chissell.
Alwyn Miss Julie - Opera in 3
Alwyn Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4
Alwyn Symphonies Nos. 2, 3 & 5
Alwyn Symphonic Prelude
Alwyn Concerto Grosso No.2 in G
France’s article on Alwyn Piano Music
William Alwyn Website on MusicWeb International