7 Sep 2014

William Alwyn (1905-1985)

From Composer of the Week, 9:00 am on 7 September 2014

William Alwyn is best known as a film composer, but Kenneth Young argues in this programme that to label all his work as ‘film music’ is to dismiss some of his best compositions.

Royal Academy of Music, London

Royal Academy of Music, London Photo: CC BY-SA 2.0, Philafrenzy

The backdrop for much of Alwyn's life was the Royal Academy of Music in London, where the composer studied, taught for over 30 years and met both of his wives.

Alwyn believed that a creative artist's duty was to express himself completely, communicating, without reserve, all the ideas which are genuinely in him. While many artists stick to one medium, Alwyn found that some ideas could be expressed only in sounds, others only in words, and others only in visual images. Consequently he became skilled as both a poet and painter.

Music biographer Hugh Ottaway wrote of Alwyn’s work: “How directly this music communicates. How warm its eloquence. How free from esoteric pretentiousness.”


Music Details:

ALWYN: Autumn Leaves - Rachael Pankhurst (cor anglais), Royal Liverpool Phil (Naxos 8.570704)
ALWYN: Symphony No 3 - LSO/ Hickox (Chandos CHAN 9187)
ALWYN: Naiades - Philippa Davies (fl), Lucy Wakeford (harp) (Dutton CDLX 7176)
ALWYN: Odd Man Out Suite - LSO/ Hickox (Chandos CHAN 9243)
ALWYN: Piano Concerto No 1, mvt 2 - Peter Donohoe (pno), Bournemouth SO/ James Judd (Naxos 8.557590)
ALWYN: Prelude No 5 in D - Ashley Wass (pno) (Naxos 8.570464)
ALWYN: Harvest, from Three Songs - Jeremy Huw Williams (bar), Iain Burnside (pno) (Naxos 8.570340)
ALWYN: String Quartet No 2, mvt 2 - Maggini Quartet (Naxos 8.570560)
ALWYN: Lyra Angelica mvt 2 - Suzanne Willison (harp), strings of Royal Liverpool Phil/ Lloyd-Jones (Naxos 8.557647)
ALWYN: Symphony No 5, excerpt - Royal Liverpool Phil/ Lloyd-Jones (Naxos 8.557647)
ALWYN: String Quartet 3, excerpt - Maggini Quartet (Naxos 8.570560)