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Alwyn: Symphony No 2 & 5 / Lloyd-jones, Willison, Et Al

Release Date: 08/16/2005 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557647   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  William Alwyn
Performer:  Suzanne Willison-Kawalec
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Considering his relative obscurity as a composer, William Alwyn has been well served by the recording industry. All of his major orchestral works have been available, conducted by the composer himself with sensational sound on Lyrita. Chandos has also recorded the complete symphonies and Lyra angelica (Angelic Harp) conducted by Richard Hickox. These performances are generally very good, but the sound is not in Lyrita?s class. The Chandos series is actually most valuable for its two volumes of Alwyn?s film music. Volume 1, also conducted by Hickox, includes a 26-minute Suite from Read more style="font-style:italic">Odd Man Out, which is a treasure for fans of romantic film music in general and Alwyn in particular. Now, in the centenary of his birth, Naxos is embarking on a cycle of his complete symphonies. Alwyn could be described as a British Samuel Barber. His music is basically romantic and tonal, but he generates plenty of tension and drama through thematic development, including some thorny dissonances. Alwyn?s orchestration is not as lush as Barber?s, and his melodies are less instantly recognizable and hummable.

The Fifth Symphony is a terse and compact work of only 14 minutes based on a single three note motif and divided into five sections contrasting violent orchestral upheavals with uneasy quiet. It ends with a funeral march accented by tolling bells that reaches a brutal climax before fading into an emotionally ambiguous soft conclusion. Alwyn similarly develops the more ambitious Second Symphony from a single melodic fragment. It also reaches a massive climax before ending in a modal pianissimo not far removed from Sir Arnold Bax?s luxuriant symphonic epilogues. This tightly argued work is the composer?s favorite of his five symphonies. The music is lean and tough without sacrificing audience accessibility. Alwyn described Lyra angelica as a ?continuous web of luminous sound.? Indeed, it is difficult to avoid being intoxicated by Alwyn?s gorgeous orchestration for harp and strings. The work is symphonic in structure with four substantial movements, but is more freely rhapsodic in style. It is, in my opinion, the finest work of its kind ever written.

David Lloyd-Jones?s tempos are consistently faster than Alwyn?s in all of these pieces. Alwyn emphasizes his romantic impulses without downplaying the drama. Lloyd-Jones ratchets up the tension considerably, but does de-emphasize the innate lyricism of the music. Both approaches are completely valid in the symphonies, but I prefer Alwyn in the lush sonorities of Lyra angelica . Sonically, there is marginally more ambient information with Lyrita, but the strings on CD (but not the original LP) are quite bright and aggressive at high volumes. With Lyra angelica and other recordings, Lyrita established a standard for reproduction of a string orchestra that has never been surpassed. Otherwise, Naxos and Lloyd-Jones come amazingly close to Lyrita in this superb recording. The Chandos Hickox Alwyn symphony cycle is still available either separately or as a complete set. The Chandos Lyra angelica is desirable for its sensuous sound and several interesting shorter works for various soloists and string orchestra. If you don?t own the Lyritas or cannot find them, and you are not familiar with Alwyn?s music, you owe it to yourself to get this highly recommended recording. It makes a perfect introduction to Alwyn?s music.

FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 by William Alwyn
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; England 
Length: 27 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Symphony no 5 "Hydriotaphia" by William Alwyn
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1972-1973; England 
Length: 14 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Lyra Angelica for Harp and Strings by William Alwyn
Performer:  Suzanne Willison-Kawalec (Harp)
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954; England 
Length: 28 Minutes 2 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Naxos' Alwyn Series Successfully Launched February 28, 2013 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "Recorded in 2004 and released by Naxos in 2005, this recording marks the first installment in a series of disks surveying the orchestral music of 20th century English composer William Alwyn. Symphony #5 is a single movement work of less than 15 minutes duration, but contains excellent music ideas and provides solid resolution in its final funeral march. The middle of the disk is in my judgement a real masterwork, 'Lyra Angelica' for harp and string orchestra. Running for approximately 27 minute, it is a concerto of the highest quality, combining wonderful solo passages for the harp with delicate, lyrical orchestral backing. Finally, Symphony #2's energetic themes bring this very fine disk to a solid close. Based on this recording, one would have to say that William Alwyn was a major British composer whose works deserve a wider exposure than they have thus far received in North America. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra plays with precision, power, and discipline, and conductor David Lloyd-Jones has everything well in hand. Give this exellent disk a try- I cannot imagine any being disappointed. Recommended." Report Abuse
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