Alwyn • Carwithen
Alwyn: 12 Preludes; Fantasy Waltzes; Carwithen: Sonatina
Daniel Grimwood (piano)
Edition Peters EPS 007 73:08 mins
What was happening in the world’s piano literature during the 1950s? On one planet, Stockhausen pushed serial composition to fiendish extremes in his testing series of Klavierstücke. On another, deep in England, William Alwyn clung to traditional tonalities in two major sets of preludes and waltzes, climaxing a body of piano works modestly begun 30 years earlier with trifles like A Little Gurgling Brook. Yet to pigeonhole Alwyn as an arch traditionalist would be massively unfair: he might not have shaken off tonality, but each of his 12 Preludes is ruthlessly built up from only a handful of pitches, while also featuring the wide-ranging emotional expression and melodic panache to which Stockhausen shut the door.
Oh well: Stockhausen’s loss is our gain, especially when Alwyn’s repertoire on this album is played with such a variety of touch and tone by the gifted Daniel Grimwood; captured in a lively acoustic too. Under his hands, the intimate and hypnotic individuality of the 1958 Preludes shines particularly bright; and if John Ogdon, over 30 years ago, sounded more muscular during the dramatic peaks of the eleven Fantasy Waltzes (1954-55), Grimwood’s superior recording highlights many other and subtler benefits in this kaleidoscopic and delightful cycle.
The youthful, sprightly and confident 1946 Sonatina by Doreen Carwithen, Alwyn’s long-term love and eventual wife, impresses on its own terms, with Grimwood particularly dazzling in the propulsive, swaggering finale. Modest in length this Sonatina may be; but never modest in impact. This is an impressive release.