Alwyn: Film Music
Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra/Clark Rundell, Mark Heron
Total Time: 69:46
The music of William Alwyn continues to find its way todisc. After a fairly successful surveyof the composer’s orchestral music, the Naxos label is releasing a collectionof the composer’s film music in their Wind Band Classics series. Martin Ellerby was specifically commissionedby the William Alwyn Foundation to create arrangements that would help expandthe availability of the composer’s repertoire. The musical selections cover an interesting and wide range of Alwyn’sfilm music in such a way that the publication of the music should have appealon both sides of the Atlantic.
Many of the selections on this release can be heard on RumonGamba’s Chandos’ series of Alwyn’s film music. Those who have a chance to compare the two “versions” will find thatboth are worthy additions to their musical libraries. The selections on the Naxos disc kick offwith an overture from The Crimson Pirate(1952). There may be less swashbucklingin this particular work, but it would make a fine pairing with sea-themedBritish band works. Marches from The Way Ahead (1944) and The True Glory (1944-45) may find moreinterest as an opportunity to expand wind band literature of British-stylemarches. Programs focusing on WWII willalso want to consider the suite from DesertVictory, a 1943 British Army film that depicts Montgomery chasing the Axisarmy through Tripoli. And for thoseprogramming Disney concerts, there are suites for both Swiss Family Robinson (1960) and In Search of the Castaways (1962). These and other films that have connections to literature also open upprogramming possibilities for the appropriate use of these arrangements.
But the music has to have some way to alternatively show offthe wind ensemble colors as well. Thishappens for both technical requirements as well as interesting musical materialin less familiar music drawn from 1949’s TheHistory of Mr. Polly from a film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel. The Geordie(1955) suite includes a number of Scottish melodies allowing forinteresting new ways to hear these tunes. The wind and brass writing feel quite faithful to Alwyn’s style andmanage to lend a period feel in some of the sections of the scores here. The use of a harp in the delightful waltzfrom The Million Pound Note might belimiting for some groups, but it is still a wonderful little piece.
To introduce these works to broader audiences, the AlwynFoundation has found a perfectly good ensemble in the Royal Northern College ofMusic Wind Orchestra. British bands dohave a distinct sound from their American and military counterparts oftenfeeling a bit “warmer” in their brass playing. This manages to work fairly well and both Clark Rundell and Mark Heronshare duties conducting these pieces in ways that create consistently engagingperformances. When one is not marvelingat the melodic ideas, or interesting harmonies, there is plenty of technicalskill on display with great balances throughout the ensemble.
The present disc is a worthy way to whet the appetite ofwind band players and conductors who will perhaps be encouraged to consideradding these works to the band repertoire of their ensembles. It allows another unique British voice to beexperienced by wind players more familiar with the traditional wind band musicof Holst, Vaughan Williams, or the many Elgar and Walton transcriptions.
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