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Alwyn: Film Music, Vol. 3

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Album Review

William Alwyn was far better known as a composer from the concert hall than in films, despite his having scored close to 200 movies across a four-decade period that included the Golden Age of British cinema, from the early '40s to the start of the '50s. That this is the third volume of his film music is mightily impressive, though realistically one could get to six or seven CDs without running short of great music or film titles to draw upon. Starting with the "Suite from 'The Magic Box'," you're immersed in his work's odd mix of rich lyricism and unusually spare but haunting writing for winds, but you also get an example of his gift for writing striking fanfares, resembling the work of Sir William Walton. Alwyn's lighter side is represented by the elegant "Waltz from 'The Million Pound Note'" and the "March from 'The Way Ahead'," his darker side with the harrowing "Ride from 'The Rocking Horse Winner'." His music for the Disney Swiss Family Robinson seems a bit superficial surrounded by these other works, but displays not a bit less craftsmanship, and the CD's closing selection, the "Suite from 'The Running Man'" (referring to the 1962 Carol Reed movie, not the more recent Schwarzenegger vehicle) — the last score that Alwyn wrote — demonstrates that he was still writing complex, serious, and at times quite beautiful film music when the subject demanded and justified it. Forty years into his work in this field; alas, the producers found Alwyn's main title theme to be too old-fashioned, and replaced it with a more modern sounding theme by Ron Grainer, with the result that this CD offers the first proper airing of the original composer's original main title music, in company with three other sections of the score that were used intact in the original film release. The recording by Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic is first-rate, in keeping with their work on this entire series of film music releases from Chandos, and the annotation contains a wealth of detail about the composer and the music.


Formed: 1922 in Manchester, England

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

The BBC Philharmonic, based in Manchester, is one of the most important orchestras in the United Kingdom, distinguishing itself through sheer visibility and through a solid commitment to contemporary British music...
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