Classical CD Reviews

WILLIAM ALWYN: Film Music – Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra/ Cond. by Clark Rundell & Mark Heron – Naxos

Depending on your age or interest in old movies, you may or may not be familiar with these movie titles.

Published on August 14, 2012

WILLIAM ALWYN: Film Music – Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra/ Cond. by Clark Rundell & Mark Heron – Naxos

WILLIAM ALWYN: Film Music – Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra/ Cond. by Clark Rundell & Mark Heron – Naxos 8.572747, 69:46 *****:

William Alwyn (1905-1985) was one of those modern classical composers who also wrote for the screen, nearly 200 scores. The William Alwyn Foundation commissioned these arrangements by Martin Ellerby to make this light music more available to the public. Most film music just disappears unless the film is a blockbuster.

Depending on your age or interest in old movies, you may or may not be familiar with these movie titles. This collection opens with The Crimson Pirate – Overture (1952), an 18th century swashbuckling comedic tale which starred Burt Lancaster. According to the CD’s notes, this was the template for Pirates of the Caribbean. This overture captures all the main tunes from the score and is great fun.

A lot of these film titles are generally unknown in the United States, because they either had limited or no release in the U.S. For example, H.G. Wells’ The History of Mr. Polly (1949) which is a suite of five sections and surely sounds familiar, but in any event is as delightful as the film must be.

There are quite a few marches here, all of them lively and very good: The Way Ahead (1944) a WW II epic directed by Carol Reed; another Reed WW II film, a documentary titled The True Glory (1944-45); and a documentary about Montgomery, this time by the British Army Film Unit, and called Desert Victory (1943).

Alwyn penned some waltzes: one from The Million Pound Note (1953) based on a story by Mark Twain and “Ship’s Waltz” from In Search of the Castaways (1962), a Hayley Mills film from Walt Disney. There is also a lively rumba in this two-section suite. Then there is a three-section suite from Disney’s screen adaptation of the child’s classic Swiss Family Robinson (1960). Here is one more suite to mention: the comedy Geordie (in the U.S.: Wee Geordie) (1955), about body building and participating in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

Alwyn certainly had a gift of imagination with such a wide variety of films. His music often captured the atmosphere and nuance of these films. He was not afraid of mixing in familiar tunes.

The Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra, about 30 strong, is an extraordinarily talented group. It is not clear if they are students or teachers or a mix. Naxos has provided splendid sound, open and bright, with plenty of impact. Highly recommended, if band music is your interest. Highly recommended!

—Zan Furtwangler




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