William ALWYN (1905-1985)
Film Music: arranged for wind orchestra by Martin Ellerby
The Crimson Pirate (1952): Overture2 [7.59]
The History of Mr Polly (1949): Suite1 [11.22]
The Way Ahead (1944): March1 [1.46]
State Secret (1950): Suite1 [7.34]
The Million Pound Note (1953): Waltz2 [3.08]
Swiss Family Robinson (1960): Suite2 [9.33]
The True Glory (1945): March2 [2.44]
Geordie (1955): Suite1 [10.59]
In Search of the Castaways (1962): Suite2 [5.43]
Desert Victory (1943): Suite2 [8.56]
Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra/Clark Rundell1 and Mark Heron2
rec. Concert Hall, Royal College of Music, Manchester, England, 22-23 January 2011
NAXOS 8.572747 [69.46] 

Now here’s an oddity: excerpts from ten of Alwyn’s some two hundred or so film scores arranged for wind orchestra. These suites and other extracts were specially commissioned by the William Alwyn Foundation “in order to further the music of William Alwyn to performers and audiences currently not able to enjoy these, his lighter contributions.” Martin Ellerby, who made the arrangements, states in his booklet note that “the key principle, after making the most appropriate cues, was to remain true to the composer and not add or subtract any personal touches.”
Many of Alwyn’s earliest movie scores were written for Second World War films and the scores for Desert victory, The true glory and The way ahead lend themselves to versions scored for military band - or wind orchestra, in this instance. Some of the other works here are more problematic. There are passages in this music which really cry out for lush string tone. Despite most persuasive playing from the wind they are unable to convince here. One notices this immediately in the overture for The crimson pirate, a Hollywood-type score if ever there was one. Two of the later scores here - Swiss Family Robinson and In search of the castaways - were commissioned by the Walt Disney company, who obviously recognised the real thing when they heard it.
The music here falls readily into the category of “lighter contributions”. The overture to The crimson pirate is really a collection of short items, including a parody of What shall we do with the drunken sailor which contrasts with the more romantic episodes. There are plenty of similar parodies in the music for The history of Mr Polly starting with Mendelssohn for The wedding and proceeding to For he’s a jolly good fellow. The darker side of H.G. Wells’s story is rather short-changed but there is a nicely romantic scene for Christabel - although again one misses the strings.
The suite from State secret opens with a Grand ball which again really needs strings to convey the right sort of atmosphere. The use of a wind band implies a rather less grand occasion, a country fair perhaps. Similarly the waltz from The million dollar note needs violins to bring out the right sort of schmaltz.On the other hand the more brash music for Swiss Family Robinson comes over well in the wind band medium, and the track Ostriches and waterslides is deliciously vulgar.
The true glory is a military march which fits the medium of the wind orchestra like a glove, and the Scottish highland sporting story Geordie makes further use of parodies. The music for In search of the castaways has a Rumba with an infectious Latin American flavour which comes over well here. The music for Desert victory produced by the British Army Film Unit is naturally suited to wind orchestral forces.
These recordings would all be most welcome as representations of Alwyn’s scores, despite reservations about the suitability of some of the music for re-scoring, were it not for the fact that the suite from The history of Mr Polly has already been recorded by Richard Hickox. The items here from The million pound note,Swiss Family Robinson,The true glory,Geordie,The crimson pirate,In search of the castaways,State secret and Desert victory were recorded by Rumon Gamba, in three CDs of Alwyn’s film music again from Chandos. The only novelty here is therefore the march from The way ahead, an enjoyable showpiece for military band but hardly a major work. Indeed it is over almost as soon as it has begun. The Chandos recordings are in the original orchestral versions. It seems a shame, with so very many of Alwyn’s film scores still unrecorded, that less than two minutes of the music here is new to disc. That said, newcomers to his music will enjoy this CD - which does indeed give us a lighter side of Alwyn. Those familiar with his opera Miss Julie or his five symphonies may have been unprepared for such immediately attractive music. All the items are extremely well played and buoyantly conducted by the two directors concerned.
Paul Corfield Godfrey 

Extremely well played and buoyantly conducted.