William ALWYN (1905-1985)
Film Music – in wind band arrangements by Martin Ellerby:-
The Crimson Pirate – Overture* (1952) [7:59]
The History of Mr Polly – Suite (1949) [11:22]
The Way Ahead – March (1944) [1:46]
State Secret – Suite (1950) [7:34]
The Million Pound Note – Waltz* (1953) [3:08]
Swiss Family Robinson – Suite* (1960) [9:33]
The True Glory – March* (1944-45) [2:44]
Geordie – Suite (1955) [10:59]
In Search of the Castaways – Suite* (1962) [5:43]
Desert Victory – Suite* (1943) [8:56]
Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra/Clark Rundell; Mark Heron*
rec. Concert Hall, Royal College of Music, Manchester, England, 22-23 January 2011
NAXOS 8.572747 [69:46]
It has to be said that all these scores except The True Glory March have been recorded with the truer colours of a full orchestra in three separate volumes on Chandos: CHAN 9243; CHAN 9959; and CHAN 10349.
William Alwyn composed some 200 film scores. Much of this workload helped him to earn his living and enabled him to devote time to his ‘serious’ music. With such a formidable list of films, there were inevitably many that were quite forgettable. Lovers of film music might like to read Ian Johnson’s book on Alwyn’s work in this genre and reviewed on this site by John France.
These transcriptions work surprisingly well especially for the marches and the swiftly moving extrovert scores. Try the swashbuckling excitement that is The Crimson Pirate and the military pride and pomp and braggadocio of Desert Victory. The quirky waltz that is The Million Pound Note fares well too.
The humorous episodes of The History of Mr Polly work well in these brass arrangements especially ‘The Wedding’ and the mordant humour of the ‘Funeral’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Punting Scene’ but not so well for such an intimate scene as ‘Christabel’ and the sensitivity of ‘Utopian Sunset’. The same criticism can be levelled at the other suites on this CD. The extrovert music of State Secret - ‘Ball’ and ‘Theatre Music’ faring better than the softer ‘On the Barge’. The pounding Main Titles music of Swiss Family Robinson suggests turbulent seas and scores over ‘At Home’. Same remarks apply for the folk-song material and ironic humour of Geordie.
This is generally satisfying film music – I just wish that more of this composer’s music really fixed itself in my memory.
These arrangements are quite pleasing but serious film music buffs are recommended to turn to the Chandos series of Alwyn’s film music.