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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very plesant surprise, 4 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Alwyn - Concerto Grosso No 1; Pastoral Fantasia; Autumn Legend (Audio CD)
In these straightened times one has to be careful upon what one spends money. Spurred on by some enthusiastic reviews I 'recklessly' acquired this CD. Well it turned out to be one the most thoroughly enjoyable risky purchases for some time. I knew two of Alwyn's symphonies from some years ago and could never understand why they weren't in the repertoire. This disc of immensely enjoyable pieces merely serves to add to that mystery. Orchestration is first rate supported by excellent performances clearly recorded. There is great variety here with some captivating ideas skillfully worked. If you find this disc less than throughly enjoyable, seek help !
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars alwyn orchestral works, 31 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Alwyn - Concerto Grosso No 1; Pastoral Fantasia; Autumn Legend (Audio CD)
The backbone of William Alwyn's orchestral output is the series of five symphonies, but on this CD Naxos present a selection of his other orchestral pieces, including a world premiere recording.

Alwyn wrote three concerti grossi, two of which are recorded on the Naxos companion disc to this one, while the other, Concerto Grosso No.1, appears here. Written in 1943, it is scored for small orchestra and is in three movements. The first is fairly vigorous, and contains a little repeated figure that bears an uncanny resemblance to the "Birdie Song" that gained brief popularity in the 1970s. After a brief trumpet fanfare, effective use is made of the solo violin. The gentle slow movement is reminiscent of a siciliana. Themes are passed effortlessly between solo instruments over a soft bed of strings. In the Finale the "Birdie Song" makes a reappearance, and the work ends in good humour and high spirits.

The Overture to a Masque (1940) was thought to have been lost until it was discovered among the archives of the LSO some twenty years ago. It is generally light and brisk in mood, althought there is a slower, more romantic middle section.

The Pastoral Fantasia (1939) is scored for viola and string orchestra. The title aptly sums up the mood of the piece. This is gentle English landscape music, although it speaks of a way of life soon to be lost forever as the clouds of war began to gather. Perhaps the work could best be described as a kind of "Lark Ascending" for viola, and deserves to be seen in that company.

The premiere recording is the Five Preludes (1927) which are, in effect, exquisite miniatures, only one movement lasting for much more than a minute. The orchestra, however, is surprisingly large for such "slight" pieces. Each prelude is set in a different key (a la piano prelude genre) to create a variety of moods.

The Tragic Interlude (1936) - for two horns, timpani and strings - begins dramatically before subsiding into a passionate elegy, full of the sense of loss and regret. It seems to have been inspired by Richard Aldington's novel "Death of a Hero" which was a personal response to World War I, and Alwyn quotes some well-known lines from the writer at the head of the score.

The haunting Autumn Legend for cor anglais and strings (1954) is another work in the "Pastoral Fantasia" vein, and seems to have been inspired by the poetry and paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti (some of which Alwyn owned). There is certainly a wistful, autumnal feel to the string introduction before the lovely, mellow strains of the solo instrument begin to weave their magic.

The final piece is the Suite of Scottish Dances (1946) - there is a comparable Suite of Seven Irish Tunes on the companion disc. To say these little gems are miniatures is almost an understatement, five of the movements lasting less than a minute: only Colonel Thornton's Strathspey is allowed something of a foothold. Still, the overall effect is one of unmitigated melodic delight.

The soloists - Philip Dukes (viola) and Rachel Pankhurst (cor anglais) - are excellent, as is the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by David Lloyd-Jones.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beguiling collection of shorter pieces by Alwyn, 2 Jun. 2011
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Philoctetes (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Alwyn - Concerto Grosso No 1; Pastoral Fantasia; Autumn Legend (Audio CD)
William Alwyn, one of the most gifted of the neglected British composers. Gifted as a composer of symphonies, concertos, chamber music, opera, film scores - you name it.

This album has several attractive pieces, including the Tragic Interlude, Pastoral Fantasia and Autumn Legend, and at budget price it easily competes with other discs conducted by Hickox (Chandos) and Alwyn (Lyrita).
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