ALBUM TITLE: Alwyn
WORKS: Mirages; Nocturnes; Slum Song; Seascapes; Invocations
PERFORMER: Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano), Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone), John Turner (recorder), Iain Burnside (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.570201
If you didn’t know that the four song cycles recorded here were written by an Englishman in the 1970s and early ’80s, it would be well-nigh impossible to guess. Of course the language would be a bit of a give-away, but from the style of Mirages, I would probably plump for ‘contemporary of Ravel, seems to have known a bit of Scriabin, and possibly Berg’. But surely only the Modernist bigot could fail to concede that these are good songs – sometimes more than good. The word-setting is sensitive, the voice mostly leads melodically, however ear-catching the piano writing, and each song has a strong sense of shape and a flavoursome sound-world. Alwyn’s Englishness is more apparent in songs like the early,Slum Song, and in parts of Seascape– though even there the current soon begins to carry sounds and textures from across the Channel. Recordings are very fine, and the performances are never less than convincing, especially Elin Manahan Thomas’s bright, pure soprano interweaving exquisitely with John Turner’s treble recorder and Iain Burnside’s piano in Seascape – and if you think that combination sounds somewhat implausible, then just give it a try.