Various Artists

William Alwyn: Mirages; Divertimento; Naiades; Fantasy Waltzes; Sonata alla Toccata

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This two-disc set dedicated to the music of English modernist William Alwyn, who was best known for his orchestral music, brings together less well-known works from three other genres. A song cycle called Mirages for tenor and piano starts the first disc, while two chamber works, the Divertimento for solo flute and the Fantasy-Sonata for flute and harp called Naiades fill it out. The second disc contains two works for solo piano: the Fantasy Waltzes and the Sonata alla Toccata. In each case, Alwyn's edgy yet sensual style translates well into the different medium. In brawny baritone, Benjamin Luxon's full-throated performances of the songs of Mirages come off as strong willed but tenderhearted and with a pronounced tendency toward heightened expressivity. Flutist Christopher Hyde-Smith is wholly persuasive in the Divertimento, holding the four-movement, 15-minute work together with a sprightly tone and a buoyant sense of rhythm. When Hyde-Smith's subtle flute is combined with harpist Marisa Robles' nuanced touch in Naiades, the results are mysteriously evocative and endlessly engaging. The pair of piano works are brilliantly and sensitively performed by pianist Sheila Randell, who grants the Fantasy-Waltzes a witty vivacity and the Sonata alla Toccata a joyous virtuosity. Anyone who already knows and enjoys Alwyn's orchestral works should try the works on this disc. Though Lyrita's 1971 sound for the song cycle and the chamber works is typically clear and crisp, their 1959 sound for the piano works is dimmer and much more reverberant.

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