Friday, 28 November 2008

William Alwyn: By the Farmyard Gate (1934)


This is an excellent example of William Alwyn's ability to write good and interesting music for children and amateurs. It is not necessarily easy to compose convincing tunes that are not patronising to players of an elementary grade. Yet in this suite Alwyn manages to combine technical interest with good tunes and genuine musical feeling.

The Duck-pond is a little gigue - nothing too complicated yet constantly moving along. There are a few interesting harmonic touches here which contributes to the interest.The second piece, A Ride on Dobbin has quite a bit of unison melody. There is a short contrapuntal section and the work finishes with echoes of the opening theme, this time harmonised. Sheep in the Paddocks is a chromatic little number. It is quite slow and rather wistful. It needs a good pianissimo technique.However it is the fourth number that is the gem of this suite - in fact it is one of Alwyn's best miniatures - Swinging on the Gate. It has a good rollicking 6/8 tune with echoes of Easthope Martins choral piece - Come to the Fair. But the whole piece is very jolly and happy. It concludes with a bit of a variation on the opening theme. 
It is a suite that most Grade 5 players could make a good try at sight-reading. Yet this would be to do it an injustice. It is actually worth taking a bit of trouble over. It is amazing to think that this is the same man that composed Miss Julie and the Magic Island prelude. Yet all the Alwyn craftsmanship is present even in this small suite.

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