Alwyn • Carwithen

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COMPOSERS: Alwyn; Carwithen
ALBUM TITLE: Piano Music by William Alwyn
WORKS: Works by Alwyn & Carwithen
PERFORMER: Mark Bebbington (piano)


Apart from William Alwyn’s Fantasy Waltzes and Sonata alla Toccata, all the other works here are recorded for the first time – including the Sonatina composed in 1947 by Doreen Carwithen, Alwyn’s former composition pupil, and later his second wife Mary Alwyn (she preferred her second name Mary to Doreen, her first). By the 1960s Carwithen had virtually stopped composing, and her Sonatina has you wishing she hadn’t: while its fast-slow-fast three-movement genre is conventional enough, the central Molto adagio speaks with an expressive and personal voice, and Carwithen’s idiom is beautifully taut throughout.

The Alwyn works here explore a whole range of expert keyboard options, from quite simple teaching pieces (like the five short and attractive numbers making up The Weather Vane) to serious virtuosity. While Ravel’s example behind the Fantasy Waltzes is obvious, the music makes other connections also: the bleak chromaticism of the seventh and ninth Waltzes, and of Funeral Rites for the Death of an Artist, suggests a strikingly individual response to the strangest and darkest of Rachmaninov’s Etudes-tableaux. Bebbington’s playing is immaculately clear and accomplished at every point, if not quite banishing the memory of John Ogdon’s more sophisticated way with the Fantasy Waltzes on Chandos.


Malcolm Hayes