Magazine article Gramophone

Alwyn

Magazine article Gramophone

Alwyn

Article excerpt

Alwyn

String Quartets--No 10, 'En voyage'; No 11; No 12,'Fantasia'; No 13 Tippett Quartet Somm (F) SOMMCDO165 (70' * DDD)

Although William Alwyn's extensive catalogue includes three 'official' string quartets dating from 1953, 1975 and 1984, his relationship with the genre stretches all the way back to 1920 when, as a 15-yearold, he wrote a String Quartet in B minor. By 1936 he had completed no fewer than 13 specimens; all were subsequently withdrawn by the fastidious composer.

Interestingly, Alwyn's distinguished composition teacher at the Royal Academy of Music, Sir John Blackwood McEwen (1868-1948), himself penned an invigorating chain of 16 string quartets, and in Alwyn's Tenth from 1932 (entitled En voyage) I detect an appreciative nod towards McEwen's bracing Sixth String Quartet (Biscay). Written while on a ninemonth tour of Australia as an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, and inspired in part by John Masefield's 1902 anthology Salt Water Poems and Ballads, this is a richly enjoyable piece, its two finely sustained slow movements ('Departure' and 'The lonely waters') forming a lively contrast with two strongly appealing quicker ones ('Sea birds' and 'Trade winds').

Rather more of a personal voice shines through in the Eleventh (1933), and its tenderly expressive Moderato e quieto finale in particular, while the one-movement Twelfth (composed in July 1935 and inscribed to Alan Bush) is entirely different again in its gritty intensity and frequendy daring harmonic scope. …

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