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Particular Sensitivity

Chamber music and songs
by William Alwyn,
reviewed by

Alwyn: Chamber Music and Songs    8.570340

Alwyn: Chamber Music and Songs. © 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

It has done immense service to a fine composer that Naxos has produced recent recordings of all five of Alwyn's symphonies and both his piano concertos. Now comes a very appealing recording of songs and chamber music that includes the arresting Rhapsody for piano quartet of 1939 and the Sonata for violin and viola, the composition of which closely followed.

Alwyn, who died in 1985 at the age of eighty, began his musical career as a flautist in the London Philharmonic, playing in the first performance of several of Elgar's principal works under that composer's direction. Over two decades from about 1940 he wrote over sixty film scores, many of them now regarded as classics of cinema history.

This CD gives us some first recordings, notably two sets of songs, the first to his own poems with violin and piano accompaniment, and the other from 1940, settings of three poems by Trevor Blakemore, the first 'Nocturne' of particular sensitivity. The voice is that of Jeremy Huw Williams.

Listen -- Nocturne (Three Songs to words by Trevor Blakemore)
(track 8, 0:00-1:25) © 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

The Ballade for viola and piano dates from 1940 and is a valuable addition to the limited English repertoire.

Listen -- Ballade for viola and piano (track 5, 0:00-1:01)
© 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

The three movement Violin Sonatina, yet another first recording, is played by Madeleine Mitchell who brings it to a close with vigour.

Listen -- Vivace (Violin Sonatina) (track 13, 2:31-3:05)
© 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

The little Chaconne for Tom -- a piece for recorder and piano dedicated to Thomas Pitfield and written for John Turner who plays it here -- was almost the last music Alwyn wrote.

Listen -- Chaconne for Tom (track 17, 2:19-3:11)
© 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Yet beyond all it is perhaps the Three Winter Poems for string quartet that is the most haunting music in this recital, a token of the fine craftsmanship and imagination of a major British composer.

Listen -- Winter Landscape (Three Winter Poems)
(track 14, 0:00-1:30) © 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Copyright © 31 May 2008 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


Alwyn: Chamber Music and Songs

8.570340 DDD Stereo FIRST RELEASE 70'15" 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Madeleine Mitchell, violin; Roger Chase, viola; Andrew Ball, piano; Lucy Wilding, cello; Jeremy Huw Williams, baritone; Iain Burnside, piano; John Turner, treble recorder; Bridge String Quartet (Madeleine Mitchell, violin; Catherine Schofield, violin; Michael Schofield, viola; Lucy Wilding, cello)

William Alwyn (1905-1985): Rhapsody for Piano Quartet (Moderato e deciso - ancora più tranquillo - a tempo primo); Sonata Impromptu for Violin and Viola (Prelude: Moderato con alcuna licenza - Più mosso (Tempo scherzando) - Tempo Primo); Theme and Variations - Moderato e semplice (Tempo di Minuetto); Finale alla Capriccio - Allegretto con burla); Ballade for Viola and Piano (Moderato); Wood Magic (Adagio con moto ma tranquillo) for voice, violin and piano; Lament of the Tall Tree (Allegro ma non troppo) for voice, violin and piano; Three Songs to Words by Trevor Blakemore, for voice and piano (Nocturne: Andantino; Illumination: Allegretto piacevole (in modo antico); Harvest: Con moto); Sonatina for Violin and Piano (Allegro e grazioso; Adagio; Vivace); Three Winter Poems for string quartet (Winter Landscape: Andante; Elegy - 'Frozen Waters': Adagio e piangevole; Serenade - 'Snow Shower': Allegretto scherzando); Chaconne for Tom, for treble recorder and piano (Andante largamente - Allegro giocoso)


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews