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William Alwyn: Piano Music 1
William Alwyn, Ashley Wass
William Alwyn: Piano Music 1
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (31) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: William Alwyn, Ashley Wass
Title: William Alwyn: Piano Music 1
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Naxos
Original Release Date: 1/1/2007
Re-Release Date: 12/11/2007
Genre: Classical
Styles: Chamber Music, Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830), Modern, 20th, & 21st Century
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 747313035977

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CD Reviews

Accessible and Intriguing Piano Music by William Alwyn
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 01/10/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It is good to see the music of William Alwyn (1905-1985) getting attention. He was probably best known as a film composer, at least in the US, and yet he wrote a great deal of concert music including a fair amount of piano music; he was himself a very fine pianist. This release is designated 'Volume 1', so perhaps we will be getting his entire pianistic output. The two works here that are the most substantial are the 'Sonata alla toccata' and the eleven 'Fantasy Waltzes.' Both have been recorded before by no less than the fabled John Ogdon, and those performances are marvelous but they are also in dated sound. Ashley Wass, a rising English piano virtuoso, seems these days to be recording a good bit of British music, including fine discs of music by Elgar, Bax and Bridge, and given his sensitive playing, this is to the good.

The 'Sonata all toccata' was written in 1946 and is in the usual three movements. The first movement's toccata-like allegro gives its name to the sonata as a whole. It is neoclassic in spirit and wholly romantic in its harmonic underpinnings. The andante is simple, serene, and songful. The third movement, molto vivace, is a whirl of modal triplets and cross-rhythms.

The 'Fantasy Waltzes' from 1954-56 are clearly Alwyn's highest pianistic achievement. Written roughly at the same time as his marvelous Third Symphony, they are his most sophisticated and virtuosic piano music; their clever construction does not interfere with their being just plain good fun. They partake some of their formal and harmonic characteristics of the waltzes of Chopin and Johann Strauss jr and from Ravel's 'La valse' and indeed have a number of barely concealed motivic and harmonic references to works by those composers. There is also explicit reference to the music of Grieg; indeed the set was inspired by a visit to Grieg's home at Troldhaugen. But these works are not pastiches; they are Alwyn through and through with the romantic and neoclassic, as well as impressionist, features that make up Alwayn's mature style. No. 3, the first to be written, is most clearly Grieg-like. Several of the waltzes are commentaries on the salon-style waltzes popular with amateur pianists of the earlier part of the twentieth century, but No. 5, on the other hand, is exceedingly complex, reminding one at times of Rachmaninov's late piano works. There is some tendency for Alwyn to alternate between lighter salon waltzes and the complexities of those like No. 5. Another complex waltz is No. 8, a light, almost frivolous-sounding thing whose measure-by-measure metric and tempo changes are masked by light-heartedness. It is followed by its polar opposite, marked 'lento e lugubre'. The series ends with No. 11, a presto with a slower middle section and a conclusion that glitters to a brilliant finish. Wass plays these gems with éclat and clear understanding of both their complexities and their simple charm.

The rest of the disc is filled mostly with occasional pieces, many of them written for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, for which he was a long-time examiner. They are generally fairly negligible. One standout, though, is 'Green Hills', written while Alwyn was abroad and, according to Alwyn expert, John France, possibly reflects Alwyn's nostalgia for the 'Green and Pleasant Land' of his birth. It is an entirely lovely andante that sounds a bit like similar music by John Ireland. And I particularly liked 'Prelude and Fugue Based on an Indian Scale'.

This release is valuable primarily for the Sonata and the Fantasy Waltzes, not forgetting the charm of the other more minor works presented here. And Ashley Wass adds to his burgeoning reputation as a champion of British piano music with his fine performances. Sonics are excellent.

Scott Morrison"
Brian Murphy | Rochester Hills, MI | 12/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Both this and Vol. 2 of Alwyn's piano music contain little gems of great beauty. Marvelous music! Played with quiet sensitivity and subtle power."