Tuesday, August 12, 2014

William Alwyn: the Suffolk composer who wasn't Britten


William Alwyn's First Symphony is coupled with Ralph Vaughan William's Job: A Masque for Dancing in the BBC Prom being given by Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra tomorrow (Aug 13). Genuine thanks go to outgoing Prom director Roger Wright for putting together a programme that shows how classical music's big opportunity is neglected music. William Alwyn was the Suffolk composer who wasn't Britten, and suffered as a result. With Roger Wright moving to Snape hopefully this will be redressed, and perhaps we can look forward to a cycle of all five of Alwyn's magnificent symphonies spread across future Aldeburgh Festivals. Additional thanks go to Roger Wright for starting tomorrow's concert an hour early, thereby allowing me to catch the late train back to East Anglia. If any readers are at this Prom do say hello. It will be easy to spot me: I will be one of those in the audience not applauding between movements.

My ticket for the Alwyn/RVW Prom was bought at the box office. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use", for the purpose of critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

4 comments:

Book-hound said...

Thanks for the Alwyn post. Yes, it would be wonderful to have a complete Alwyn symphonic cycle performed. Hope you enjoy tomorrow's concert.

Philip Amos said...

Your every reminder of neglected music is invaluable, Bob. Splendid. I think Alwyn may in particular need a boost, for I suspect that in the minds of many music lovers he is still too much associated with film scores, fine though those are.

I should very much like to hear Barbirolli's recordings of Alwyn. He commissioned the first two symphonies and recorded them in the early 50s. Remastered by Dutton, they are available on Archive Recordings (Limited Edition). Glorious John also recorded three tone poems, but I'm not sure when or if that recording is available. I suspect it is, but I haven't checked yet.

And lastly, something that really took me aback. If someone showed me the photo on the Chandos cover and asked me who it is, I would have said, "Oh, that's Isaiah Berlin". I should have been so certain of that, this morning I had to check no one had made a boner by googling images of Alwyn. That is he on the cover right enough, but he is Berlin's double. A trival thing, but so odd it's worth taking a look at photos of Berlin in his later years.

Book-hound said...

Philip, the previously unpublished recordings of Barbirolli conducting Lyra Angelica, The Magic Island, and Autumn Legend came out about a year ago, taken from the recordings that we hold here in the William Alwyn Archive at Cambridge University Library. It's a great recording too. http://www.barbirollisociety.co.uk/latest/barbirolli-conducts-william-alwyn

Philip Amos said...

Book-hound, that is good news indeed! Thank you so much. Philip