Alwyn: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Sonata alla toccata; Derby Day Overture

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COMPOSERS: Alwyn
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Alwyn Piano Concerto
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Sonata alla toccata; Derby Day Overture
PERFORMER: Peter Donohoe (pno), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, James Judd
CATALOGUE NO: 8.55759
William Alwyn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is a delight, every bit the equal of Lambert’s contemporary Concerto, or Walton’s slightly earlier Sinfonia Concertante. Its delicate, reflective ending seems truer to this composer’s creative character than the gallery-storming rhetoric of the Second Concerto’s outer movements. Peter Donohoe plays both works with verve, technical brilliance and clear respect for the difference in their respective natures, and he is well matched with James Judd and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. The Naxos couplings make sense too: we have the Overture Derby Day, which Alwyn substituted when the planned Proms performance of the Second Concerto fell through, and the very likeable Sonata alla toccata, again in a fine performance from Donohoe.

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But Howard Shelley on Chandos makes just that bit more of the First Concerto’s imaginative subtleties (the ending is exquisite); and in his performance of No. 2 it’s the soulful slow movement and the finale’s more inward-looking central section that leave the stronger impression – to the work’s clear advantage. There’s also a degree or two more heat in the LSO’s playing under Richard Hickox. The Naxos sound is bright and clear, but the Chandos team has created a more rounded sound picture, with warm atmosphere and sumptuous tone as well as clarity. Stephen Johnson