Alwyn: Concerto Grosso No. 1; Pastoral Fantasia; Five Preludes; Autumn Legend; Tragic Interlude; Suite of Scottish Dances

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COMPOSERS: Alwyn
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Alwyn
WORKS: Concerto Grosso No. 1; Pastoral Fantasia; Five Preludes;
Autumn Legend; Tragic Interlude;
Suite of Scottish Dances
PERFORMER: Rachael Pankhurst (cor anglais), Philip Dukes (viola); Royal Liverpool PO/
David Lloyd-Jones
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570704

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Does the ‘record anything and everything syndrome’ do a composer a genuine service? It can do, if he or she has Alwyn’s extreme level of craftsmanship. Apart from the later Autumn Legend for cor anglais and strings, none of these pieces truly suggests how fine Alwyn’s music could be at its best: it became much more individual when he was able to cut back on his playing, teaching, and film-composing activity and give himself more time to think. But even when he didn’t have this, Alwyn could still deliver results whose crisply focused expertise is a pleasure in itself – as in the Concerto Grosso for eight soloists and strings, sketched between wartime stints as an air-raid warden. The Pastoral Fantasia for viola and strings is a beautifully written excursion into Delius and Vaughan Williams territory, its accompaniment imaginatively exploring solo as well as tutti groupings. And the Five Preludes, though only very short, are a seriously talented display by a 22-year-old composer, scored with flawless and striking individuality (Henry Wood chose them for the 1927 Proms). Each of these performances matches the mint-condition precision of the music itself, with Philip Dukes a memorable soloist in the Pastoral Fantasia. Malcolm Hayes