Alwyn: Elizabethan Dances; Oboe Concerto; Aphrodite in Aulis

COMPOSERS: Alwyn
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Alwyn
WORKS: Elizabethan Dances; Oboe Concerto; Aphrodite in Aulis
PERFORMER: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570144
Alwyn’s Oboe Concerto must be one of his finest pieces: touching, wide-ranging in mood and colour, strong in its main musical ideas and elegantly crafted. There are superficial echoes of Vaughan Williams’s exactly contemporary Oboe Concerto, and occasionally of Delius, but it is never derivative. Yet behind the finely sensuous, fastidiously wrought surface there is an edginess you don’t often find in Alwyn – the mark of its war era?

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Rather different is the Elizabethan Dances, a delightful product of the post-Coronation mood when many Britons still believed they were on the verge of a new Elizabethan age. A good deal of it is unabashed mock-Tudor pastiche, but of a very enjoyable kind; only the effortfully jaunty finale tune lets it down slightly. The other pieces are slighter, but each has something to offer. Performances are excellent. Choosing between this Oboe Concerto and the sumptuous Nicholas Daniel/Richard Hickox version on Chandos is hard, but David Lloyd-Jones and Jonathan Small bring a degree of more nervous intensity and introverted subtlety that I found very convincing. The Naxos recording isn’t quite as glowingly beautiful as the Chandos, but everything is admirably clear and well balanced, with no lack of atmosphere. Stephen Johnson