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William Alwyn – Piano Music Vol.1

William Alwyn – Piano Music Vol.1

Recorded at St. George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol from 23rd to 25th august, 2006
World Premiere Recording

About the author:
William Alwyn was born in Northampton where he showed an early interest in music and began to learn to play the piccolo. At age 15 he entered the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied flute and composition. He was a virtuoso flautist and for a time was the principal flautist of the London Symphony Orchestra. Alwyn served as professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music from 1926 to 1955. William Alwyn had a remarkable range of talents. He was a distinguished polyglot, poet, and artist, as well as musician. His compositional output was varied and large and included five symphonies, four operas, several concertos and string quartets. Alwyn wrote over 70 film scores from 1941 to 1962. His classic film scores included Odd Man Out, Desert Victory, Fires Were Started, The History of Mr Polly, The Fallen Idol, The Black Tent and Crimson Pirate. Many of the scores have been lost, but in recent years CD recordings have been made, reconstructed by Philip Lane from the film soundtracks themselves.
Alwyn could be considered a late Romantic composer whose style is not dissimilar to, for example, William Walton. He relished dissonance, and devised his own alternative to twelve-tone serialism, explained in his own programme note to his Third Symphony (1956): “the twelve notes used in a different way – in a tonal manner”. Eight notes of the possible twelve are used in the first movement, with the remaining four (D, E, F, and A-flat) constituting the middle movement, and all twelve being combined for the finale. (The composer adds “This all sounds very complicated, but I don’t think you will find it a difficult work to listen to.” Alwyn’s concerto for harp and string orchestra, Lyra Angelica, became popularly known when figure skater Michelle Kwan performed to it at the 1998 Winter Olympics. William Alwyn lived at ‘Larkrise”, Dunwich Road, Blythburgh, Suffolk and died in Southwold, Suffolk, England in 1985. He was survived by his second wife, the composer Doreen Carwithen.

About these works:
William Alwyn is not normally associated with the composition of keyboard music. However throughout his working life he wrote much for the piano that deserves our attention. This is diametrically opposed to the predicament that has plagued the reputations of John Ireland and York Bowen who are regarded as being primarily writers for the piano in spite of the fact that each wrote a large amount of music for a variety of instrumental, vocal and orchestral combinations. Alwyn, on the other hand is regarded by most that know his concert hall music as a symphonist, although 50 years ago it was imagined that the world of film music was the field of his main endeavours. Today perhaps we can see William Alwyn in the round and can appreciate his orchestral, chamber, film and piano music. There are two fundamental problems in any study of Alwyn’s writing for the piano. Firstly it is difficult to pin down exactly what he wrote. There are, of course, a small number of ‘recital’ pieces that are relatively well known – at least to Alwyn cognoscenti. However, much of the opus consists of smaller scale pieces that were either designed for, or have been used for, educational purposes. I have found a number of little gems in albums of piano pieces containing works by a number of composers – especially the excellent Lengnick Five by Ten series. And secondly, little of this music is easily available either on recordings or as published scores. It is necessary to haunt the second-hand music and charity shops in the hope of picking up a few pieces of sheet music. A small number of works are still in publication. Within the musical world there is a prejudice against music produced for the amateur pianist and for educational purposes. I remember inquiring in a well known second-hand music shop in York about some piano pieces by Thomas Dunhill only to be told by the shop assistant, “We don’t get much demand for him. Most people that come here are not interested in that sort of music.” There was a definite sneer in her voice. Poor old Dunhill, such a craftsman – whether writing for the professional or amateur. Many of the piano works of William Alwyn are tarred with the same brush. It is assumed that because it is published in Volume 2 of ‘The Highway of Progress’ it is not worth considering. Complexity is confused with craftsmanship; quality with a wrongly perceived need for profundity. The main recordings available of Alwyn’s piano music, of which there are three obvious contenders – concentrate on the concert works. The most recent Chandos CD (CHAN 9825) has the Sonata alla Toccata and the Fantasy Waltzes, played by Julian Milford. The earlier Chandos Ogdon recording (CHAN 8399) has the Fantasy Waltzes and the Preludes and the early Lyrita mono recording by Sheila Randell (RCS16) has the Sonata and the Fantasy Waltzes. We are lucky that the recent CD by Milford has first recordings of Green Hills, Movements for Piano and Night Thoughts.

For more detailled information about Alwyn’s piano music, you may visit here.

Track List:
01. Sonata Alla Tocatta – Maestoso. Allegro ritmico e jubilante (3:34)
02. Sonata Alla Tocatta – Andante con moto e semplice (2:25)
03. Sonata Alla Tocatta – Molto vivace (3:54)
04. Green Hills – Andante molto e tranquillo (3:05)
05. Cricketty Mill – Allegretto e piacevole (4:18)
06. Prelude And Fugue Formed On An Indian Scale – Prelude. Andante e tranquillo (2:15)
07. Prelude And Fugue Formed On An Indian Scale – Fugue. Allegro moderato e ritmico (1:35)
08. Haze Of Noon – Adagio molto tranquillo (2:46)
09. Harvest Home – The Tinker’s Tune. Allegro non troppo – reel time (1:18)
10. Harvest Home – The Village Band. Alla marcia (1:23)
11. Harvest Home – Andsantino (1:47)
12. Harvest Home – The Church Bells Ring. Moderato e semplice (1:20)
13. Fancy Free – Sunday Morning. Andante piacevole (1:05)
14. Fancy Free – Snowdrops. Andante (1:46)
15. Fancy Free – Twilight. Allegretto. Quasi andantino (1:22)
16. Fancy Free – Happy-go-lucky. Allegro (1:03)
17. April Morn – The Lost Lamb. Adagio doloroso (1:07)
18. April Morn – April shower. Presto (0:48)
19. April Morn – Bluebells. Andante capriciosso (0:45)
20. April Morn – Violets. Andantino amoroso (0:51)
21. Fantasy Waltzes – Tempo rubato e capriccioso (2:49)
22. Fantasy Waltzes – Scherzando (1:30)
23. Fantasy Waltzes – Moderato (2:46)
24. Fantasy Waltzes – Grazioso (2:30)
25. Fantasy Waltzes – Lento (3:52)
26. Fantasy Waltzes – Allegro giocoso (5:21)
27. Fantasy Waltzes – Lento (3:59)
28. Fantasy Waltzes – Vivace, ma ritmico (1:22)
29. Fantasy Waltzes – Lento e lugubre (4:26)
30. Fantasy Waltzes – In tempo piacevole (1:39)
31. Fantasy Waltzes – Presto (5:16)

The Player:
Ashley Wass: piano

Ashley Wass has been described by Gramophone magazine as possessing ‘the enviable gift to turn almost anything he plays into pure gold’, Ashley Wass is recognised as one of the stars of his generation. He was the first British pianist to have won First Prize at the London International Piano Competition (in 1997) and the second British pianist in twenty years to reach the finals of the Leeds Piano Competition (in 2000). He appeared in the ‘Rising Stars’ series at the 2001 Ravinia Festival and his promise was further acknowledged by the BBC, which selected him as a New Generations Artist over two seasons (2000-2002). Ashley Wass studied at Chetham’s Music School and won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music to study with Christopher Elton and Hamish Milne. He was made an Associate of the Royal Academy in 2002. As Naxos’s first ever exclusively contracted solo artist, he made his debut recording in 1999 with an acclaimed solo recital disc of works by César Franck for Naxos (8.554484). His recent surveys of piano music by Bridge and Bax have been heralded as ‘unmissable’ and ‘the yardstick against which all future recordings will be judged’. The first CD of his recording for Naxos of the complete piano works of Arnold Bax (8.557439), released in 2004, was selected as Editor’s Choice by Gramophone, and is complemented by further recordings of music by Bax and other British composers. He has given performances at most of the major venues in Britain, including the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms, and also appeared in a gala concert at Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Concerto performances have included collaborations with Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the London Mozart Players, Philharmonia, Bournemouth Symphony and all the BBC orchestras. Ashley Wass is also much in demand as a chamber musician and has toured the United States and Europe with violinist Sarah Chang appearing at venues such as Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center and Carnegie Hall in New York. He is Artistic Director of the Lincolnshire International Chamber Music Festival. He has spent three summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, playing chamber music with musicians such as Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode and David Soyer. Ashley Wass has given recitals at most of the major British concert halls including the Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, Bridgewater Hall and St David’s Hall. His concerto performances have included Beethoven and Brahms with the Philharmonia, Mendelssohn with the Orchestre National de Lille and Mozart with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra at the Vienna Konzerthaus and the Brucknerhaus in Linz. He has also worked with Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the London Mozart Players, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and other BBC orchestras. He recorded Poulenc’s Piano Concerto with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic and Vassily Sinaisky, featured as a BBC Music Magazine cover CD. He appeared in a gala concert at Buckingham Palace to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, a performance broadcast live to millions of viewers around the world, and in 2002 opened the Hong Kong Philharmonic’s concert season with Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto and later in the same season made his début with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and conductor Paul Daniel. His career continues with numerous recitals throughout Britain, appearances as a soloist with major orchestras and recital débuts in Germany, Cuba, Sweden and Israel. He is also much in demand as a chamber musician and has already collaborated with some of the leading artists of his generation. In 2003 he formed the Denali Trio with violinist Jesse Mills and cellist Sarah Carter, the artists having previously collaborated at the Marlboro and Ravinia Festivals in the United States. Their debut tour of Britain in February 2004 was an outstanding success, winning enthusiastic reviews and resulting in a host of other invitations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Stereo, DDD, mp3, 320 kbps, 178.71 Mb, 73:57 minutes. Covers & info included.

Part1 —–   Part2

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