Review By Classic FM,
Lorraine McAslan gives a heart-rending performance of Alwyn’s Concerto with superb support from the RLPO under Lloyd-Jones.
The Performances: Incredibly, Alwyn’s Violin Concerto (1939) is still awaiting its first professional performance, all the more remarkable as Lorraine McAslan plays it with such heart-rending sincerity, technical poise and beguiling tonal purity. The RLPO under David Lloyd-Jones’s inspired direction, support her to the hilt and then come into their own with a thrilling traversal of the Miss Julie Suite that captures its coruscating changes of mood with tactile precision. Like Copland’s famous fanfare, Alwyn’s also includes some exciting percussion writing along the way.
Review By Ronald E. Grames ,Fanfare,September 2011
As many collectors will know, David Lloyd-Jones has been recording the orchestral works of Alwyn for Naxos, having completed the symphonies plus several concertos and shorter orchestral works. In general, Lloyd-Jones has been brisker and cooler, with somewhat less rhythmic abandon and tempo contrast. This approach often highlights the formal strength and expert construction of these works. That is certainly true in the concerto, where the tempos are faster, quite decidedly so in the central Allegretto e semplice movement. Here listeners may prefer Hickox and Mordkovitch, who weave a nocturnal rhapsody of unearthly beauty. Nevertheless, Lloyd-Jones and Lorraine McAslan, two-and-one-half minutes quicker at 9:30, are closer on average to an allegretto. The movement is wistful and
There is little to choose in the opening Allegro ma non troppo. Both performances are powerful and responsive to the tunefulness, demonstrating Alwyn’s genius for sentiment without sentimentality. The last movement may find the earlier preference reversed. Complex and potentially episodic, it begins in a noble English style reminiscent of Elgar, but is soon coyly elusive, then clever and humorous, almost folkish. The usually peerless Hickox leaves a few less-than-seamless transitions in his quest for characterization, while Lloyd-Jones persuades us that the final movement, for all its fanfares and virtuosic flourishes, is structured all of a piece.
Soloist Lorraine McAslan was for two short years the first violinist of the Maggini String Quartet. Oddly, her biography in the booklet makes no mention of that fact. Her solo work in that ensemble’s recordings of Alwyn’s quartets (Fanfare 32:6) was one of the reasons for my enthusiasm for that release. I am pleased that while she appears to have turned her back on the quartet to return to a solo career, she has not done so to Alwyn. While not as warm in tone as Mordkovitch on Chandos, perhaps in part because she is recorded rather closely, she is every bit as effective at weaving Awlyn’s rhapsodic spells within Lloyd-Jones’s more objective framework.
I have left myself but little space to comment on the other two works, which is unfair. Philip Lane’s suite from Alwyn’s last opera, Miss Julie, commissioned by Alwyn’s second wife, Mary (aka composer Doreen Carwithen), capsulizes the decadence and hopelessness in the composer’s masterly adaptation of Strindberg’s play with selected music that is lively, sinister, and in the end harrowing. This is the only recording of the nearly 20-minute suite, though the superb complete recording of the opera is still available on Lyrita. Lloyd-Jones’s performance of the 1958 Fanfare for a Joyful Occasion for brass and percussion is marginally preferable to the only other, Hickox’s rather droll rendition, because he presents it with a lighter hand. Admittedly