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William Alwyn: Chamber Music and Songs

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
Britain's William Alwyn is often classed as a neo-Romantic traditionalist; the booklet for this Naxos disc likens him to the roughly contemporary American Samuel Barber. But this collection of chamber music and songs, most of it never recorded before, reveals a somewhat different Alwyn -- not a modernist surely, but a composer who was aware that Stravinsky and even serialism existed, and who forged an economical new language in a traditionally expressive, tonal idiom in response. From start to finish, this music doesn't sound much like Barber or anyone else, and the disc marks a major accomplishment for Naxos' ongoing series devoted to British music of the twentieth ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Manheim
Britain's William Alwyn is often classed as a neo-Romantic traditionalist; the booklet for this Naxos disc likens him to the roughly contemporary American Samuel Barber. But this collection of chamber music and songs, most of it never recorded before, reveals a somewhat different Alwyn -- not a modernist surely, but a composer who was aware that Stravinsky and even serialism existed, and who forged an economical new language in a traditionally expressive, tonal idiom in response. From start to finish, this music doesn't sound much like Barber or anyone else, and the disc marks a major accomplishment for Naxos' ongoing series devoted to British music of the twentieth century. Alwyn comes closest to pure late Romanticism in the songs, where compactness is a given. All the music, though, even the more extended "Rhapsody for piano quartet" and "Ballade for viola and piano," is compact, built carefully from themes that are at once highly expressive and rather abstract in shape. The "Sonatina for violin and piano" and "Three Winter Poems for string quartet," with their two- and three-minute movements, evoke late Brahms in their combination of rigor and lushness. Sample the glorious Adagio movement of the sonatina and try to resist the rest of the program. A major attraction, there and elsewhere, is the playing of violinist Madeleine Mitchell; it would be hard to imagine a more sympathetic and graceful interpreter of Alwyn's music. Most of the music on the album dates from the central phase of Alwyn's career in the 1930s and 1940s, but a special bonus is the "Chaconne for Tom, for recorder and piano" of 1982 -- Alwyn's last completed composition, slightly reworked by the present performer, John Turner. This little piece, written for a friend's celebration, ingeniously reworks "Happy Birthday" into a quasi-chaconne. It's an enchanting capstone to a career that was obscured for too long by the machinations of the modernist nomenklatura, and the disc as a whole makes a noteworthy contribution to the revival of Alwyn's important body of work.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/31/2007
  • Label: Naxos
  • UPC: 747313034079
  • Catalog Number: 8570340
  • Sales rank: 376,449

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Rhapsody for piano quartet - William Alwyn & Andrew Ball (9:19)
  2. 2–4 Sonata Impromptu for violin & viola - Roger Chase & William Alwyn (16:44)
  3. 3 Ballade, for viola & piano - William Alwyn & Andrew Ball (10:01)
  4. 4 Wood Magic, song for voice, violin & piano - William Alwyn & William Alwyn (3:22)
  5. 5 Lament of the Tall Tree, song for voice, violin & piano - William Alwyn & William Alwyn (1:15)
  6. 8–10 Songs (3) to Words by Trevor Blakemore, for voice & piano - William Alwyn & Jeremy Huw Williams (6:39)
  7. 11–13 Sonatina, for violin & piano - William Alwyn & Andrew Ball (10:27)
  8. 14–16 Three Winter Poems, for string quartet - William Alwyn & Bridge Quartet (8:59)
  9. 15 Chaconne for Tom, for treble recorder & piano - William Alwyn & Iain Burnside (3:19)
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