Alwyn: Concerti Grossi Nos 2 & 3

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WORKS: Concerti Grossi Nos 2 & 3; Serenade; Seven Irish Tunes: Suite for Small Orchestra; Dramatic Overture from The Moor of Venice (orch. Philip Lane)
PERFORMER: RLPO/David Lloyd-Jones
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570145


When it comes to English orchestral composers, it’s usually symphonies that champions seize on. But with the exception of his fine, and remarkably compact Fifth (Hydriotaphia), William Alwyn’s Symphonies generally miss the freshness and sustained inventiveness of some his apparently more modest scores. On the face of it, there’s nothing startlingly ambitious about the two Concerti Grossi recorded here. Yet the music is such a delight to listen to: not just as a pleasurable background noise, but for the way it entertains while elegantly dodging the predictable at every turn. Concerto Grosso No. 2, for strings alone, has a refined sensibility that sometimes recalls Bridge’s Suite, without ever resembling it.


The weightier Concerto No. 3, composed as a memorial tribute to Henry Wood, begins in a more obvious English-festive manner. But the mercurial Alwyn spirit soon reasserts itself, particularly in the central movement, which starts as an elegy then transforms itself into a nervy and strangely inconclusive scherzo. Even the 11-minute Serenade manages to say quite a lot in its four short movements, yet all with such delicacy and without so much as the ghost of a cliché. The performances are lovely, with David Lloyd-Jones approaching each score – even the rather less impressive Moor of Venice and Seven Irish Tunes – on its own terms. Stephen Johnson