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William Alwyn: Chamber Music

Audio Samples

>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Sonata for clarinet & piano
>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Sonata for oboe & piano
>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Sonatina for viola & piano
>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Suite for oboe & harp
>Alwyn, William [Composer] : String trio
>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Conversations, for clarinet, violin & piano

Album Summary

>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Sonata for clarinet & piano
>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Sonata for oboe & piano
>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Sonatina for viola & piano
>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Suite for oboe & harp
>Alwyn, William [Composer] : String trio
>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Conversations, for clarinet, violin & piano
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Among British composer William Alwyn's large body of work, including five symphonies, concertos for flute, oboe, violin, harp, piano, and many shorter orchestral works, there is a significant amount of chamber and instrumental music. This disc presents six works which were composed between 1934 and 1962. During this time, Alwyn's style developed from the easy flowing melodies exemplified in the Oboe Sonata, Viola Sonatina (here receiving its world premiere recording), and Suite for Oboe and Harp to the more astringent and darker language of the Clarinet Sonata and String Trio. Conversations, originally named Music for Three Players, comprises eight short descriptive pieces.

"Already much indebted to Naxos for recordings of William Alwyn's symphonies and piano concertos, we now have the pleasure of a superb disc of his chamber works. I have to admit to a long term love and admiration of his music, but I am sure you can dip into this new release at any point and find music that you will enjoy... At times looking back to a folksy idiom in the Suite for Oboe and Harp, you will find the influences of the French Impressionists in Conversations, or the Poulenc era in the cheeky finale to the Oboe Sonata... Alwyn having become wedded to tonality disliked much happening around him, and now looked to film scores to give him financial stability. There were moments - as in the previously unrecorded Viola Sonatina - when nostalgia takes over, the score one of intense beauty. Only in the introduction to the String Trio of 1959, do we detect modernity, though it is soon dispelled. Throughout the disc some of the UK's best known chamber musicians play with that innate feel for the music. Add a first class recording, and this is readily my Naxos disc of the month." -David's Review Corner

"Alwyn's music is fascinating and perhaps underappreciated; his mature compositions are particularly rewarding. The Viola Sonatina, the String Trio, and Conversations make this program worth having. These are works I come back to time and again, and I think you will too."-American Record Guide

"...an interesting glimpse into William Alwyn's development from the sweet melodist of the 1930s to the bleaker, angrier man of the 1960s." -The Observer

"Alwyn's chamber music bristles with piquant ideas. Every phrase has a spark, challenging its interpreters musically and technically while giving the listener a feast of gently angular lyricism...it's the mercurial String Trio, in a performance of extraordinary vivacity and conviction from the Hermitage String Trio, that impresses most." -Financial Times *****

"Performances and recording both excel, with Sarah-Jane Bradley's viola-playing outstanding and Sophia Rahman's accompaniments a model of supportive expertise throughout." -BBC Music Magazine ****

"The Conversations of the 1950s (a suite of eight short pieces) for clarinet, violin and piano is a particular favourite, especially as Robert Plane, Lucy Gould and Sophia Rahman play with such rapt sensitivity and allure. Sarah Francis is beguiling as ever in the enchanting Oboe and Harp Suite" -Classic FM Magazine ****

"This collection of six works for various combinations reveals William Alwyn at his most impressive, always thoughtful in finely crafted works...Altogether a fine survey, splendidly played and recorded." -Gramophone Magazine

Catholic News Agency
The... Alwyn CD contains six chamber works, composed between 1934 and 1962, including sonatas for clarinet, oboe, and viola. This is all expertly made music in a variety of styles, from the highly lyrical to the slightly stringent. I think they are all gems. This is a mandatory purchase for anyone who has been following the outstanding Naxos Alwyn series.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/04/2009-10/05/2009).



Reviews

The art of British chamber music lives in Alwyn!
The new Naxos recording of the chamber music of William Alwyn (Naxos 8.572425) is the latest in a series that catalogues the mid-twentieth century master and is a gem! Alwyn came from a family that had no musical background at all. His father, in fact, was a grocer and yet the family frequently talked about great literature and young William developed great skills as a flutist, pianist and, then, composer from his early school years. He later graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, joining their faculty at the age of 21! He left a large body of works, from several symphonies to small chamber works, like those heard here. These works, and this recording, are quite beautiful all around. The Sonata for Clarinet & Piano (1962) is a single extended movement work written in a flowing, yet bravura, style. It is rhapsodic, full of runs and flourishes of all sorts, ending quite dramatically. Originally written for Thea King, it is wonderfully performed here by Robert Plane, principal clarinet of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and pianist, Sophia Rahma, a highly skilled accompanist known throughout England. The Sonata for Oboe from 1934 opens with a lovely oscillating piano part under a lilting, sometimes jaunty, oboe melody. The first movement flows, somewhat impressionistically, into the middle andantino that has an almost chorale feel to it. The work concludes with a short, tuneful waltz that dissolves into a tranquil coda. The Sonatina for Viola & Piano (1941) opens a bit darkly, followed by a spritely dance. The aria movement is particularly beautiful and the work concludes with a brilliant, virtuostic finale. Lucy Gould, violist, masters the mood and demand of this master work. One of the best aspects of this collection is the inclusion of Alwyn's almost forgotten Suite for Oboe & Harp (1945). This wonderful little surprise was only discovered about thirty years ago in the Leon Goosens collection at the British library. A wonderful work, it focuses on a plaintive, almost Eastern sounding, oboe main theme and a very wistful harp part before the work concludes with a charming waltz. Another highlight of this disc is the String Trio, from 1959. This is a bold, mostly dark, work that stands in contrast in mood to the other works on this disc. Based on a non-harmonic twelve tone row, this is a dramatic and pensive work that stays intense for its fifteen minute duration. The collection concludes with the charming Conversations for violin, clarinet & piano (1950) Eight, brief, tuneful pieces are played all in a row and each carries a different but attractive mood. The "conversations" are the exchanges and sharing of melody between each instrument, especially noted in the Romanza and the Arioso. This entire collection is a must have for fans of Alwyn's music and for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of the wide range of wonderful chamber writing that actually characterized post-Elgar England right through the 1960s. All the performances are superb and the Naxos engineers have again produced a product that sounds clean, well balanced and lively. Highly recommended, indeed!
Submitted on 09/14/10 by Dan Coombs 
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Works Details

>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Sonata for clarinet & piano
  • Performers: Sophia Rahmann (Piano); Robert Plane (Clarinet)
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/04/2009-10/05/2009)
  • Running Time: 12 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1962

>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Sonata for oboe & piano
  • Performers: Sarah Francis (Oboe); Sophia Rahmann (Piano)
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/04/2009-10/05/2009)
  • Running Time: 15 min. 36 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1934

>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Sonatina for viola & piano
  • Performers: Sarah-Jane Bradley (Viola); Sophia Rahmann (Piano)
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/04/2009-10/05/2009)
  • Running Time: 7 min. 35 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Suite for oboe & harp
  • Performers: Sarah Francis (Oboe); Lucy Wakeford (Harp)
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/04/2009-10/05/2009)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 35 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1945

>Alwyn, William [Composer] : String trio
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/04/2009-10/05/2009)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 24 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1962

>Alwyn, William [Composer] : Conversations, for clarinet, violin & piano
  • Performers: Lucy Gould (Violin); Sophia Rahmann (Piano); Robert Plane (Clarinet)
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/04/2009-10/05/2009)
  • Running Time: 16 min. 2 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern