Alwyn: Film Music, Vol. 2: Desert Victory; A Night to Remember; The Crimson Pirate; The Winslow Boy; Take My Life; State Secret; The Card; Libera me; In Search of the Castaways; Green Girdle

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Alwyn
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Film Music, Vol. 2: Desert Victory; A Night to Remember; The Crimson Pirate; The Winslow Boy; Take My Life; State Secret; The Card; Libera me; In Search of the Castaways; Green Girdle
PERFORMER: Susan Bullock (soprano); Canzonetta, BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9959
This is much more than an exercise in nostalgia. British film scores are often represented as something their composers had to churn out to enable them to get on with the more serious business of writing concert music. But what if the film music turns out to be more enduring? If, like me, you find Alwyn’s symphonic works respectable but rarely stirring, you may end up asking the same question after hearing this delightful disc. All right, so there are no grand, ambitious structures, no intricate, extended arguments; rather generous helpings of charm, wit and sheer tunefulness – plus the kind of emotional openness British critics of the day were too quick to condemn in music with ‘serious’ pretensions. It’s surprising how well some of these scores work away from the cinema images they were meant to enhance. You don’t need to know that the Allegretto from The Winslow Boy was written as a portrait of the young hero’s family home: that gentle, intimate Elgarian warmth speaks for itself. Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic deserve full credit for taking these pieces seriously, without adding weight the music was never intended to bear – and for sounding as though they’re really enjoying such cream-topped sweetmeats as the Waltz from In Search of the Castaways. Recordings are first-rate. Stephen Johnson

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