Vaughan Williams : Alwyn

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Alwyn,Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Dutton
WORKS: Vaughan Williams: Heroic Elegy & Triumphal Epilogue; Alwyn: Prelude; Overture in the Form of a Serenade; Blackdown – a Tone Poem from the Surrey Hills; Ad Infinitum – a Satire for Orchestra; Bowen: Eventide; Parry: Hypatia – incidental music
PERFORMER: Micaela Haslam (soprano), Roderick Elms (organ); The London Chorus; BBC Concert Orchestra/John Wilson
CATALOGUE NO: CDLX 7237

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Vaughan Williams’s Heroic Elegy & Triumphal Epilogue offers intriguing insights into the artistic youth which, until recently, we barely knew. This orchestral diptych appeared when Vaughan Williams was still in his twenties – just. But it’s remarkable how clearly his distinctive voice speaks in some passages: in spacious string chords, or the threatening repeated percussion rhythms of the Triumphal Epilogue.

The stark trombone theme at the opening is a strikingly original touch that he never repeated. It’s by no means a fully formed masterpiece, but for strength of character it stands out from the strange assortment of resurrected works that surround it. 

The Alwyn pieces are variable: always well-crafted and occasionally showing touches of the imagination that takes off in the Fifth Symphony and Lyra Angelica, but only really succeeding completely in the modest but delicately inventive Peter Pan Suite. At first York Bowen’s Eventide promises to offer something still more seductive, poised invitingly between Debussy and the younger Bax, yet there’s something curiously anonymous about it.

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And I don’t think Parry’s Hypatia is going to turn many heads either: few indications here of the soul-stirring bard of Jerusalem and I Was Glad. Performances are generally good (if a little undercharged at times), as are the recordings – though it’s a shame the horn split in the opening of the first Hypatia piece couldn’t haven been tidied up. Stephen Johnson