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Chris Morgan
Scene Magazine, March 2012

On this new Naxos collection, the instrumentalists of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra bring together a delicious sampling of Alwyn’s oeuvre, including world premiere recordings of Seven Irish Tunes—Suite for Small Orchestra, Serenade, and the CD’s opening number, Dramatic Overture: The Moor of Venice. It’s a sombre, slow-burning affair with expectant brass and a muted classicism in line with the theme of the piece. In contrast, the bustling mood of the next track—Alwyn’s second concerto—is at turns serine and ebullient, setting the stage for the remainder of the recording; a program which is certain to appeal to students and collectors of English symphonic music. © 2012 Scene Magazine Read complete review

Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, March 2012

this newer series on Naxos with David Lloyd-Jones…offers a broad compendium of the music that seemed to pour out of the man like water from a pitcher, and…has significant strengths to attract the listener…the performance is…lovely in its own right…

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic…easily lives up to its excellent reputation in this release. The sound captured in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall is open and detailed, in a perfect complement to the conductor’s approach. Given the high technical standards and almost 30 minutes of unfamiliar or newly recorded music, Alwyn admirers will have no problem justifying the purchase of this release… © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

James Norris
Audiophilia, December 2011

The Concerto Grosso no. 2 is a fine piece of English string writing…the RLPO strings give it a fine performance and the recording is really demonstration sound. The Serenade is a very tuneful and flowing four movement work which I will be returning to again and again as is the Suite for small orchestra—Seven Irish Tunes—similar in a way to Vaughan Williams folk song suite.

The final words must go to the RLPO who play these pieces splendidly throughout… © 2011 Audiophilia Read complete review, November 2011

the disc, which is very well played and conducted, gets a (+++) rating. Those who have already encountered Alwyn will find this an enjoyable expansion of their knowledge of his music. Read complete review

Jeremy Dibble
Gramophone, November 2011

Attractive and colourful music played with apt energy and drive

The music of Alwyn, in all its diversity and passion, appears to have an unstoppable momentum under the committed baton of David Lloyd-Jones and Naxos. This highly entertaining and gripping recording, crisply executed by the RLPO, has an energy, drive and polish entirely apt for the compelling admixture of Alwyn’s post-Romantic and neo-classical language.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, October 2011

It’s a vigorous, active piece, with much high energy and good spirits to recommend it…it’s a world-première recording. …Lloyd-Jones does his best to bring the music to life…the sound is quite attractive, very open and clear. The recording provides a modest orchestral depth and wide stereo spread, the strings exceptionally smooth without ever being soft or recessed. The dynamic range is merely adequate, not too terribly wide, as are the bass and treble extension.

John France
MusicWeb International, October 2011

Concerto Grosso…opening and closing movements are lively and cheerful however I enjoyed the second movement best which is more complex and profound and has been likened to a ‘Homage to Dvoƙák’. It is truly lovely music. The quality of the scoring is impressive, although the string quartet part is hardly virtuosic—as composed by Alwyn, not as played! There is a good contrast between the ‘straightforward’ themes and their ‘vigorous elaboration.’

The Concerto Grosso No.3 is the masterpiece on this CD. In fact, I think it is one of William Alwyn’s most accomplished works. It is important, to realise that it was a BBC commission to mark the twentieth anniversary of the death of Sir Henry Wood (1869–1944). It is a genuine tribute from a grateful composer.

In this work there is no use made of the ‘concertino’ group of soloists that is so characteristic of the ‘classical’ concerto grosso form. In this work the three sections of the orchestra interplay with each other. However in the first movement the brass dominates, in the second it is the woodwind and finally in the last is it the strings turn to take the lead.

…if the listener thinks that this Concerto Grosso is going to be a ‘po-faced’ elegy to the great man, then they are hugely mistaken. In fact, Alwyn has suggested that it is largely written on ‘broad vigorous lines’ rather than in a ruminative style. However, the final movement is heart-renderingly beautiful, without being morbid. It is a fitting and ultimately optimistic tribute to one of the greatest figures in British music.

I enjoyed this CD, especially the Concerti Grossi. However I do feel that the other works, although interesting, are not essential. Nevertheless, they will be part of every William Alywn enthusiast’s collection and will allow scholars and listeners to gain a wider understanding of the composer’s art.

The sound quality of this disc is excellent, especially so in the concertos. I enjoyed the crisp performances and I was very impressed with the liner notes by Andrew Knowles: they are informative and comprehensive.

…I guess that most of Alwyn’s orchestral works are now available on CD. This is a magnificent achievement that I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams some 40 years ago.

James Manheim, October 2011

This is a superior short work with a lovely nocturnal slow movement in which the solo string group opens with mutes; it would serve well as a curtain-raiser for any orchestral concert. The other concerto grosso, from the early 1960s, is a more Stravinsky-like piece with brasses in the concertino role. The other three works are even less known than the two concerti grossi, and indeed they receive their world recording premieres here. The recording is drawn on a pair of sessions three years apart, but both were done at the orchestra’s home Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, and the musicians are in a lively mood throughout. A delightful slice of English neoclassicism.

Stephen Johnson
BBC Music Magazine, October 2011

…the music is such a delight to listen to: not just a pleasurable background noise, but for the way it entertains while elegantly dodging the predictable at every turn…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.

Jeremy Nicholas
Classic FM, October 2011

Lloyd-Jones, as you would expect of a past master in this repertoire, leads his polished Liverpool players in atmospheric performances of tender affection.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, September 2011

Englishman William Alwyn (1905–1985) was one of those extremely prolific composers who almost never turned out a “dog.” Consequently he’s already well represented on disc, still “there’s gold in them thar hills,” which Naxos has been mining for the past few years.

One of the nuggets they found was the first of his three concerti grossi…and here are the remaining two. As an added attraction, this latest release is filled out with world premiere recordings of three other orchestral works.

First we get his Dramatic Overture: The Moor of Venice composed in 1956. Originally conceived for massed brass bands, in 2001 composer-musicologist Philip Lane…prepared this orchestral version. It’s a symphonic poem of cinematic proportions that musically encapsulates all the treachery, deceit and jealousy of Shakespeare’s (c. 1564–1616) tragedy (c. 1603). Hearing it one can well understand why Alwyn was in such demand for film scores, eventually writing some two-hundred of them.

The second concerto grosso of 1948 is next. Scored just for strings and in three movements, the solo group is a quartet. The energetic beginning and ending of the opening allegro feature a jumpy angular idea (JA) that suggests Bach’s (1685–1750) Brandenburg Concertos (1708–21). But not the more restrained, somewhat impressionistic central section, which anticipates the mood of the upcoming adagio.

This is a lovely lyrical offering where the tutti spin out a comely sighing melody (CS) decorated from above by the violins of the solo quartet. The final vivace couldn’t be more different, and shivers with a rhythmic and melodic nervosity. There are closing allusions to JA as well as GS, and then the concerto ends perfunctorily.

Alwyn’s Serenade dating from 1932 was a birthday present for his first wife written during a trip to Australia. The opening prelude starts with a six-note tone row (SN), which is the seed for the thematic ideas in all four of its movements. Once introduced, SN is fragmented and romanticized, but boldly restated by the horns at the prelude’s end.

The next movement, “Bacchanal,” was inspired by Norman Lindsay’s (1879–1969) lithograph The Procession. It’s a rustic debauch that may bring Gabriel Pierné’s (1863–1937) ballet Cydalise et le chèvre-pied (1914–15) to mind, and is followed by a soothing air for muted strings.

The folkish finale is in keeping with those British country dances by Alwyn himself…as well as the likes of Alun Hoddinott…and Malcolm Arnold… Oddly enough, the main theme sounds related to the opening of the next work, and seems a perfect introduction to it.

This is Seven Irish Tunes, which is a suite for small orchestra Alwyn composed four years later (1936) based on melodies from an 1855 collection of Hibernian ditties. They include the lyrically endearing “Little Red Lark,” “Maiden Ray” and “Gentle Maiden” [tracks-9, 11 and 13], wistful “Sigh” [track-14], as well as the toe-tapping “Country Tune,” “Reel” and “Jig” [tracks-10, 12 and 15].

The disc concludes with the third concerto grosso from 1964, which Alwyn wrote in memory of the great English conductor Henry Wood (1869–1944) on the twentieth anniversary of his death. For woodwinds, brass and strings, it’s much more contemporary sounding than its predecessor.

In three movements, the first is driving with a utilitarian air suggestive of Paul Hindemith (1895–1963). The middle one begins as an introspective “andante,” but suddenly shifts gears becoming a mischievous prickly “vivace.”

It’s the perfect foil to the subdued finale, where the main theme [track-18, beginning at 00:46] sounds like a cognate of the one opening Elgar’s (1857–1934) first symphony… Made all the more dramatic by a couple of brief ff passages, this movement is a moving in memoriam for one of England’s best loved conductors and someone Alwyn greatly admired.

As with their previous Alwyn Naxos releases, these rarities couldn’t be in better hands than those of conductor David Lloyd-Jones and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Their playing releases all the drama pent up in these scores, while preserving that sense of inner logic which makes Alwyn’s music so satisfying.

Made on two separate occasions (2007 and 2010) in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, the recordings are well-matched and project a magnificent soundstage in this spaciously bright acoustic. The sonic clarity and focus are exemplary to the point where there’s a bit of digital grain in massed violins. Except for the latter, the disc is demonstration quality.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2011

You would have been lucky to find a William Alwyn disc in record shops outside of the UK before Naxos began this series. Now we have new recordings of the complete symphonies, many of the concertos and other of his orchestral works, though, sadly, this release marks the end of the series. Alwyn devoted much of his life to composing over two hundred film scores, and while his concert hall music was well received, it never followed those fashionable trends that would have brought the media hype enjoyed by much less important composers. The series set out to redress that situation, the conductor, David Lloyd-Jones, proving a fitting guide. He here completes the trio of Concerti Grossi, works spread over twenty years and each very different to its predecessor. The Second, from 1948, is scored for strings and very much in the world of Vaughan Williams, robust outer movements surrounding a central Adagio with a theme of great beauty. The Third, for full orchestra, was commissioned by the BBC to mark the twentieth anniversary of the death of Sir Henry Wood, and is a joyful celebration of a life that gave so much to music. The disc opens with Philip Lane’s orchestral arrangement of an overture for brass band that pictured Shakespeare’s Othello, The Moor of Venice. The Serenade, an early work from 1932, brings a fresh and captivating sound-world, and is, together with the Seven Irish Tunes, receiving its first recording. The Liverpool orchestra play with sure-footed security, and I commend the disc without a word of reservation.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group