William Alwyn's Fourth Symphony is an epilogue to his first three, conceived as a cycle. It's a tough work, its Romanticism tempered by an edgy modernism. Interest is added by a powerful rhythmic pulse (especially the first movement with its throbbing drums and the hard-driving Scherzo), blazing trumpet climaxes, brilliant orchestration, and a sense of gravity. David Lloyd-Jones and his orchestra bring all of these elements to the fore in an interpretation bristling with energy, including a fast-paced headlong dive into the Scherzo that adds to the excitement. In effect, the conductor's energetic pace tightens the work and takes some of the gloss off its Romanticism. Not that he short-changes the lyrical sections; moments of repose areRead more strategically placed within the work. The last movement is, in the composer's words, "a calm epilogue", and Lloyd-Jones gives such important sections their full due. He knows that Alwyn dared to write long-lined melodies at a time when the music establishment frowned on anything hummable, and there's plenty of poetry in this three-movement symphony.
The Sinfonietta is symphonic in scope, ambitious in its materials, and usually lasts about 25 minutes (close to 23 on this disc). It opens with an unforgettably dynamic passage for cellos and basses that recalls Bartók, then alternates the vigorous and the lyric with Romantic fervor. The gentle Adagio embeds a quote from Alban Berg's Lulu, another composer Alwyn admired and refers to when he writes "... any composer who is honest acknowledges the debt he owes to genius."
The final movement is a complex fugue followed by a peaceful ending, as if to bring rest to the preceding turbulence. Lloyd-Jones is only a couple of minutes faster than his rivals on disc, but it all comes out of the last two movements, producing a more flowing Adagio and a finale that doesn't lose its clarity because of the swifter speeds. Oddly enough, the opening of the work, electrifying in Alwyn's own account, is a bit tamer here.
In general, Alwyn's the best conductor of his own music on disc, but his Lyrita recordings are hard to find. Lloyd-Jones' series of the five symphonies, of which this is the concluding volume, is an excellent alternative. The engineering on this disc has a split personality due to different dates, producers, and engineers. The Symphony is acceptable but a touch opaque; the Sinfonietta has more presence, better dynamics, and a stronger bass. If you are unfamiliar with Alwyn, try this disc--the music, performances, and price make it an unbeatable buy.
--Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 4by William Alwyn Conductor:
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1959; England Venue: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, England Length: 32 Minutes 13 Secs. Notes: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, England (08/02/2004 - 08/04/2004)
Sinfonietta for Stringsby William Alwyn Conductor:
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1970; England Venue: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, England Length: 22 Minutes 51 Secs. Notes: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, England (08/02/2004 - 08/04/2004)
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Excellent PerformanceMarch 1, 2013By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"William Alwyn's 3 movement Symphony #4 dates from 1959 and is a very excellent modern work, loaded with great thematic material. Adding to its considerable appeal are the absence of even a hint of dissonance and the buildup to its powerful and compelling conclusion. Written in 1970, the Sinfonietta is much lighter fare, with varying moods and tempos and generally presenting an introspective, pensive mood throughout much of the work. On top of evrything else is the superb playing by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which in my view ranks right up there with the great London orchestras. This is a very high quality disk, and I can easily recommend it to any serious music fan. Anyone interested in 20th century English orchestral music will be highly pleased by Alwyn's sophisticated and appealing music."Report Abuse