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William Alwyn: Piano Music, Vol 1 / Ashley Wass


Release Date: 12/11/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570359   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  William Alwyn
Performer:  Ashley Wass
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Alwyn admirers can welcome this disc gratefully.

Alwyn Studies continues to benefit from the dedication of record companies. This time it’s the piano music that takes centre-stage and this represents the first volume in a welcome new series. The two works that bookend the disc, the Sonata alla toccata and the Fantasy Waltzes are probably the best known but in between we have no less than six world premiere recordings presented by Ashley Wass, whose presence in the studios is proving ever more fruitful across a range of genres.

It could, perhaps should – indeed has – been said that the Sonata alla toccata is not really a sonata and not much of a toccata either. Nevertheless this ten-minute work has a very
Read more individual cut; a vibrant romanticism harnessed to neo-classical style. Alwyn is at his most pregnant though in the central movement with its tolling motif and in the final movement where the maestoso grandeur of the writing unveils a baroque plenitude and, once more, a toll resounding depth. Peter Donohoe has also recorded the sonata with equally satisfying results.

The Fantasy Waltzes have long been associated with John Ogdon but Wass loses little if anything in comparison – and Ogdon’s Chandos recording is currently unavailable. The waltzes take up half the playing time of the disc and are the most important things here – thirty-five minutes of spirited, luminous, highly effective and often beautiful writing for the instrument. The first waltz has a healthy dose of Ravel embedded, whereas the Moderato third pays its subtle homage to Grieg. The heavy impressionist drift of the fifth, a strong Lento, is reinforced by its animated central panel. And the sixth, an Allegro giocoso is characterised by Wass with real verve and determination. Maybe Scriabin haunts the coiled introversion of the seventh. The wittiest moments are reserved for the eighth, which sounds like a cross between Johann Strauss and Jaroslav Ježek.

The roll call of premiere recordings includes Green Hills and Cricketty Mill, the latter replete with tricky John Ireland impressionism – fluent, fluid, rising to a more assertive chordal bronze tone when required. The title of the next, Prelude and Fugue formed on an Indian Scale, sounds like something Foulds might have written in academic mood but it’s actually rather guileless and warmly lyric. Haze of Noon is a character study, as the title suggests, pleasing but no more. Harvest Home consists of bright little character pieces, not too difficult and good for parlour and hearth performance. Fancy Free and April Morn date from 1924-26 and are both educative in nature; the latter was written for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. So expect no great shakes here but do expect some charming studies, not least in the rainfall evoked in April Shower, which is perhaps the pick of these eight slivers.

The sound quality is excellent. The recording was made at St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol but there was no diminution in the taping of Fancy Free which was made at Crear, Lochgilphead.

Alwyn admirers can welcome this disc gratefully – the Waltzes in particular are alone worth your time – and can look forward to forthcoming volumes with great enthusiasm.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb Interntional
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata alla Toccata by William Alwyn
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945-1946; England 
2.
Green Hills: Andante molto e tranquillo by William Alwyn
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; England 
3.
Cricketty Mill: Allegretto e piacevole by William Alwyn
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; England 
4.
Prelude and Fugue formed on an Italian Scale by William Alwyn
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; England 
5.
Haze of Noon: Adagio molto e tranquillo by William Alwyn
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; England 
6.
Harvest Home by William Alwyn
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; England 
7.
Fancy Free by William Alwyn
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; England 
8.
April Morn by William Alwyn
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Notes: Composition written: England (1924 - 1926). 
9.
Fantasy-Waltzes (11) for Piano by William Alwyn
Performer:  Ashley Wass (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; England 

Sound Samples

Sonata alla toccata: I. Maestoso - Allegro ritmico e jubilante
Sonata alla toccata: II. Andante con moto e semplice
Sonata alla toccata: III. Molto vivace
Green Hills
Cricketty Mill
Prelude and Fugue on an Indian Scale: Prelude
Prelude and Fugue on an Indian Scale: Fugue
Haze of Noon
Harvest Home: I. The Tinker's Tune
Harvest Home: II. The Village Band
Harvest Home: III. Harvest Moon
Harvest Home: IV. The Church Bells Ring
Fancy Free: I. Sunday Morning
Fancy Free: II. Snowdrop
Fancy Free: III. Twilight
Fancy Free: IV. Happy-Go-Lucky
April Morn: I. The Lost Lamb
April Morn: II. April Shower
April Morn: III. Bluebells
April Morn: IV. Violets
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 1. Tempo rubato e capriccioso
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 2. Scherzando
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 3. Moderato
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 4. Grazioso
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 5. Lento
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 6. Allegro giocoso
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 7. Lento
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 8. Vivace, ma ritmico
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 9. Lento e lugubre
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 10. In tempo piacevole
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 11. Presto

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