Monday, January 12, 2009

Alwyn, beyond the movies

If you are a classical movie lover, chances are that you have heard a lot of the music of William Alwyn (1905-1985) already: this British composer wrote over 70 film scores from 1941 to 1962, such as Odd man out and The crimson pirate. As a composer of regular classical music, he is much less often heard, and quite undeservedly so. His symphonic oeuvre, including six symphonies, a sinfoniettta and various concertos, is well worth exploring. Its sound scapes lie somewhere between Vaughan Williams and Walton. I want to draw attention to one piece in particular, as I consider it one of the greatest concertos ever writen: Lyra angelica, for harp and string orchestra, 30 minutes of beautiful yet also very substantial music. Certainly the best concerto ever composed for this instrument. As an introductory Naxos CD for this composer, I of course went for one that contained this masterpiece, in addition to two of his symphonies (the dramtic second and the serene fifth), in versions by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under David Lloyd-Jones, with Suzanne Wilson on harp. I do not own this CD myself - having gotten these pivotal works on the earlier Chandos issues - but the reviews are very positive. Highly recommended.