Notes and Editorial Reviews
Fantasy Waltzes. Funeral Rites for the Death of an Artist. Bicycle Ride.
Piece for Piano.
Sonata alla Toccata. The Weather Vane.
Mark Bebbington (pn)
SOMM 133 (72:35)
The music of British composer William Alwyn is little known in the U.S., but as this disc proves, some of it is quite good indeed. Particularly interesting are the
from 1954–55, which are based somewhat on the works of Chopin but are quirky, offbeat pieces in which the basic 3/4 rhythm is used in a variety of ways, moving the accents around on different beats and varying the tempo, sometimes from bar to bar. Strange chromatics also keep one off-balance as Alwyn constantly undermines the listeners’ expectations. This is wonderfully imaginative and atmospheric music, and Bebbington plays it with an appropriately fluid style and tongue-in-cheek humor. This series of waltzes almost sound like Chopin or Brahms on acid.
An interlude then follows in the form of Doreen Carwithen’s Sonatina. She initially studied under Alwyn at the Royal Academy of Music, but then married him several years later. Her compositional output is small, mostly because she devoted her energies to promoting his music. She did, however, write four orchestral works, including an overture titled
One Damn Thing After Another
) and a piano concerto (1946–48, premiered in 1951). This sonatina, here in its world premiere recording, is given a fine treatment by Bebbington. It’s a good piece, based somewhat on a neoclassical style, and shows a certain amount of imagination.
The remaining Alwyn pieces, except for the
Sonata alla Toccata,
are also world premiere recordings. The
Funeral Rites for the Death of an Artist,
from 1931, is cleverly based on a “bell tolling” effect on the piano, starting off very quietly before growing in a crescendo of sound to a thundering
, then ending as quietly as it began—a bit like Debussy’s
La cathedrale engloutie. Bicycle Ride
was written in 1952 for a collection of graded piano pieces published by Alfred Lengnick. Though very brief (1:23), Alwyn’s contribution to the series is a very cute and witty piece without being coy or overly-cute. The 1940 “Piece for Piano,” dedicated to Angela Latham, wife of Alwyn’s friend the musicologist Pater Latham, is a fascinating work, a bit like a nocturne in feeling but with a more restless undercurrent to it.
Sonata alla Toccata
is, like the rather strange
both playful and well-constructed. In fact, I got the impression that the somewhat lightweight quality of the themes and there development tended to take one’s mind away from just how well this music is put together. Bebbington has a grand time with it, however, as he does with all of the music in this album. I was particularly struck by the wonderful rhythms of the last movement (
), which sounded just a bit like ragtime or early jazz.
All in all, a truly enjoyable album of unfamiliar music, well worth checking out.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 1 in A-Flat Major: Tempo rubato e capriccioso
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 2 in B-Flat Major: Scherzando
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 3 in E Minor: Moderato
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 4 in B Major: Grazioso
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 5 in A-Flat Major: Lento
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 6 in C Major: Allegro giocoso
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 7 in A Minor: Lento
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 8 in G Major: Vivace, ma ritmico
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 9 in C Minor: Lento e lugubre
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 10 in F-Sharp Major: In tempo piacevole
Fantasy Waltzes: No. 11 in A Major: Presto
Piano Sonatina: I. Allegro moderato - Piu lento Maestoso - Piu mosso - Tempo
Piano Sonatina: II. Molto adagio
Piano Sonatina: III. Allegro molto
Funeral Rites for the Death of an Artist
Sonata alla toccata: I. Maestoso: Allegro ritmico e jubilante
Sonata alla toccata: II. Andante con moto e semplice
Sonata alla toccata: III. Molto vivace
The Weather Vane: I. The Weather Prophet
The Weather Vane: II. The West Wind
The Weather Vane: III. From the East
The Weather Vane: IV. The Sunny South
The Weather Vane: V. The North Wind Doth Blow
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