Alwyn: 'The Film Music of William Alwyn

By Edwards, Adrian | Gramophone, March 2017 | Go to article overview

Alwyn: 'The Film Music of William Alwyn


Edwards, Adrian, Gramophone


Alwyn

'The Film Music of William Alwyn, Vol 4' Music from The Black Tent (a), A City Speaks, Fortune is a Woman (a), The Master of Ballantrae (a), Miranda (b), On Approval (a), Saturday Island (a), Shake Hands With the Devil (a), The Ship that Died of Shame and They Flew Alone (a) ((a) ed Philip Lane)

(b) Charlotte Trepasssop

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra / Rumon Gamba

Chandos (F) CHAN10930 (78' * DDD)

William Alwyn composed these film scores between 1941 and 1959, when a visit to the cinema was a twice-weekly event for many UK citizens, with attendance levels that have never been surpassed.

In The Black Tent (1956), filmed in Technicolor and Vista Vision, the audience could be whisked from suburbia to a foreign location like Libya, where shooting took place. Alwyn's score was typical of his cinematic craft. Eschewing the flamboyant approach of a Tiomkin, Alwyn devised music that portrayed events on screen in a pithy, no-nonsense fashion without resorting to cliche. In this Suite his cues, often carrying a dense narrative, proceed in a cogent fashion, as with the Nocturne and Finale, where the drama and romance of the desert are inspired by Arabic music.

Adventure films dominate this fourth CD of Alwyn's music. The Master of Ballantrae (1953), from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, is in a Scottish idiom, while Shake Hands With the Devil, a dramatic tale of the Black and Tans and the IRA, contains a little idyll for strings alone, 'People of Erin'. A sombre, fully scored funeral march ('Trouble') rounds off this Suite. 'The Mermaid's Song' from Miranda, a vocalise sung by the soprano Charlotte Trepass with full-bodied tone, provides an apt contrast, along with a Chopin-style Nocturne, played by pianist Paul James, in Alwyn's They Flew Alone, a biopic of Amy Johnson. …

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