ALBUM TITLE: Alwyn
WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Royal Liverpool PO/David Lloyd-Jones
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557649
High claims have been made for William Alwyn’s Fourth Symphony. It does contain some fine things, notably the tender and spacious (and surprisingly American-sounding) long melody that opens the finale. The Scherzo too has an unusual driving rhythmic energy – not
quite what one expects of Alwyn. But generally speaking the Fourth has neither the consistent freshness of the First, nor the concentration and balanced emotional drama of the one-movement Fifth. The variations Alwyn imposes on that lovely finale theme, for instance, are ingenious but they’re also rather disappointing. Too often, I can’t help feeling that this tune deserves better.
The Sinfonietta may appear to be more modest in its aims, but it is so much more successful as a whole statement. It is haunted – but not thematically dominated – by a quotation from Berg’s opera Lulu, heard in full just once, near the start
of the central slow movement. There is also a touch of the somewhat twilit, brink-of-tonality feeling of the early, Romantic Schoenberg, but all achieved with a very personal assurance and sensitivity.
The playing of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under David Lloyd-Jones is as impressive on this disc as anywhere else in this Naxos cycle, and while Richard Hickox’s version of the Fourth Symphony on the Chandos label may be recorded more lustrously, it’s for Lloyd-Jones that the finale theme really reveals its heart – though I must say it is still worn a long way from the sleeve. Stephen Johnson