Sunday, 22 February 2009

William Alwyn: Piano & Chamber Music on Lyrita

I was listening to this excellent CD the other day on the train from London to Manchester. Between train announcements, mobile phones, and an inquisitive fellow passenger I managed to hear both discs before arriving at Piccadilly.
However, last year I was able to review this music for MusicWeb and at that time I had the privacy of my study and proper ‘hi-fi’ system. It is a CD that deserves the attention of all British Music enthusiasts.
I began my review with a little anecdote…”I well remember where I bought the original 1959 Lyrita release of the Alwyn piano music – it was at pre-Fayed Harrods in about 1976. Quite why they had copies of this ‘specialist’ LP in their record browsers has always been a minor mystery to me! But to compound the situation, I had great pressure put on my laddish wallet – for next to this album were those other Lyrita gems- piano music by William Wordsworth and Franz Riezenstein. It ended up quite a haul and I could not possess myself in patience to get back to Glasgow to spin them on the turntable. I cannot now quite recall my reaction – though I do remember being seriously impressed by Wordsworth’s Cheesecombe Suite. But that is another story and another review.
I had discovered William Alwyn a few months earlier when I had heard the Symphonic Prelude: The Magic Isle. Even after all these years I can recall what impressed me about that work – it was the perfect equilibrium between ‘modern’ music and an almost ‘film-like’ romanticism. The Fantasy Waltzes are full of this balance between contemporary and retro. It was written after Alwyn had visited Grieg’s lakeside home at Troldhaugen near Bergen. Originally the intention was to compose a short suite of ‘salon’ style pieces rather in the manner of one of the Norwegian master’s collections of Lyric Pieces. However it soon became much greater than the sum of the parts: it is a long work, lasting some 33 minutes...”

Track Listing:-

CD 1 Mirages, A Song Cycle for Baritone and Piano (1970) Divertimento for Solo Flute (1939) NaiadesFantasy-Sonata for Flute and Harp (1971) 
CD 2 Fantasy-Waltzes (1956) Sonata alla Toccata (1937) Benjamin Luxon, baritone; David Willison, piano; Christopher Hyde-Smith, flute; Marisa Robles, harp; Sheila Randell, piano Originally issued on LP as SRCS 61 (CD1); RCS 16 (CD2) LYRITA SRCD.293

Please read my full review at MusicWeb International

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