Alwyn: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 5 (Hydriotaphia); Lyra Angelica

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Alwyn
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Alwyn Symphonies
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 5 (Hydriotaphia); Lyra Angelica
PERFORMER: Suzanne Willison (harp); Royal Liverpool PO/David Lloyd-Jones
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557647
William Alwyn’s Fifth – its subtitle taken from the elegiac masterpiece of the 17th-century writer Sir Thomas Browne – is his most original and urgently personal symphony. Its one-movement argument evolves with power and subtlety, the orchestral sense is more acute than ever before, and the funeral march-like final section is one of his truly noble inspirations. If the experience of writing for the cinema leaves an unmistakable mark, the work is none the worse for that.

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You can’t miss the quality of the musical thought in David Lloyd-Jones’s new recording, but it was Richard Hickox’s Chandos recording that first made me aware what a remarkable symphony this is, and going back to it, there’s still that tiny margin of extra intensity and grandeur – plus a much more vivid, atmospheric, tonally sumptuous recording. I’ve similar feelings about the relative merits of the Lloyd-Jones and Hickox versions of the Second Symphony. The Naxos is more than respectable: well structured, with plenty of feeling and sensitivity to significant colour. But again Hickox brings just that bit more, and with a demonstration quality Chandos recording. I would however strongly recommend this performance of the Lyra Angelica, Lloyd-Jones and harpist Suzanne Willison revealing more dark and ecstatic poetry than in any other performance had led me to expect. Stephen Johnson