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William ALWYN (1905-1985)
The Film Music - Volume 4
The Black Tent Suite (1956) [15:21]
On Approval Suite (1944) [6:11]
The Master of Ballantrae Suite (1953) [5:52]
Fortune is a Woman Prelude (1957) [4:41]
Miranda Mermaids Song (1947) (3:27)
Saturday Island Prelude (1952) [2:54]
Shake Hands with the Devil Suite (1959) [14:06]
The Ship That Died of Shame Main Titles (1955) [2:12]
They Flew Alone Suite (1941) [6:56]
A City Speaks Manchester Suite (1946) [14:47]
Reconstructions and arrangements by Philip Lane (except The Ship That Died of Shame, A City Speaks)
Charlotte Trepass (soprano: Miranda)
BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba
rec. MediaCityUK, Salford, January 2016.
CHANDOS CHAN10930 [77:53]

William Alwyn was born William Alwyn Smith in 1905 in Northampton. His first instrument as a child was the piccolo, and he went on to study the flute and music composition at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1936 he began composing music for British documentary films, and went on to compose film scores for 107 documentaries and 86 feature films.

This disc features a broad sample of his work during the 1940’s and 50’s. Many of William’s film scores have been lost or destroyed, and noted English composer and musicologist Philip Lane has painstakingly recreated most of them from the original film soundtracks and recordings.

The earliest suite is from the film They Flew Alone, a 1941 British movie about aviator Amy Johnson, who became famous for her solo flights from London to Cape Town, South Africa. The film was directed and produced by Herbert Wilcox and starred Anna Neagle and Robert Newton. The suite begins with the Prelude, a bold, sweeping brass introduction which lingers and then fades to the Nocturne theme led by piano and strings, followed by the sprightly March beginning with clarinets and drums, softening to a light string interlude, and ending with a glorious full orchestra climax. The Mermaid’s Song was originally composed for the 1947 film Miranda, but was never used in the movie due to a last-minute change of directors. The tune is sung by soprano Charlotte Trepass as a gentle vocal wandering through the octaves, accompanied by harps and strings, creating a beautiful vision of a mermaid singing under the waves.

Fortune is a Woman is a 1957 crime film directed by Sidney Gilliat, and starring Jack Hawkins, Arlene Dahl, and Dennis Price about an insurance fraud scheme that turns sour. The Prelude features sections of Alwyn’s original score, which Philip Lane masterfully combined to create a sweeping musical montage, a dramatic brass introduction, followed by a tranquil melody led by strings, and ending with tension-building excitement and the final resolution. The latest suite of music is from Shake Hands with the Devil, a 1959 film directed by Michael Anderson and starring Don Murray, James Cagney and Dana Wynter, set in Dublin in 1921 during the struggles between the Irish Republican Army and the British Black and Tans. The music adeptly reflects the plot of the movie as it develops, from the opening tension-building movement Dublin 1921, the melancholic theme of People of Erin, the clashing brass and cymbals of The Blacks and Tans, a haunting violin solo highlighting the Professor Sean Lanihan movement, a solo bass drum and string section leading a funeral procession in Trouble, and the panoramic, full orchestra ending of the last movement, Rebel to the End.

The sound quality is excellent. A 32-page booklet is included, with photos and comprehensive notes about the composer, films, and the orchestra.

Bruce McCollum



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