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.
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