I have always enjoyed the Fanfare for a Joyful Occasion since first hearing it on the Chandos release back in 1993 with Richard Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra. The work was dedicated to the well-respected percussion player Jimmy Blades. Mary Alwyn has written that her husband often consulted Blades ‘on the complexity of writing for these instruments in the modern symphony orchestra.’
It is hardly surprising that the Fanfare employs a battery of percussion including the marimba, the vibraphone and the glockenspiel. The work has been described as ‘flashy’; I hope not in a derogatory sense. This is extrovert music that is extremely rhythmic. The liner-notes omit to point out that this piece also requires four horns, three trumpets, three trombones and a tuba as well as three percussion players.
It opens with a brilliant ‘fanfare section’ that may recall Walton and his ‘royal’ marches – be they for Henry, Richard, George or Elizabeth. However the mood soon dies downs and soft sounds from the ‘tuned’ percussion become almost ‘Arnold-esque’ in mood. The music develops through a long crescendo with the brass and percussion combining to produce a loud and perhaps deafening conclusion. Whether this is a great work or not is up to the listener to decide: it is certainly impressive, noisy and interesting.
Listen to William Alwyn's Fanfare for a Joyful Occasion on NAXOS 8.570705
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review first appeared.