Ashley Wass' second disc of piano music by William Alwyn stretches from Alwyn's first published work for solo piano to his last (with the exception of the educational Twelve Diversions for the Five Fingers). Hunter's Moon, three brief character pieces, was written as an examination piece in 1932. The three Movements, at the end of the disc, date from 1961. In between are more character pieces and the Twelve Preludes, which dates from 1958 and which Wass places at the beginning of the program. The preludes contrast with the rest of the program by virtue of being more formal, structured, and abstract pieces. In spite of this, there is a consistency of style in Alwyn's music that makes the chronological ordering of it relatively unnecessary or irrelevant. Especially in Wass' hands, Alwyn's music is always thoughtful and personally felt, yet very approachable. It's frequently more harmonically adventurous than what is thought of as English Pastoralist or English post-Romantic music, but it still has the overall quiet, lyrical, and lean sound of that style and can hardly be called atonal. Even the Contes Barbares, subtitled "Homage to Paul Gauguin" and referring to Gauguin's Tahitian period, is not as exotic sounding as one might expect. "Te Atua -- The Gods" in Contes Barbares sounds less like the allegro barbaro it is marked as than does "The Devil's Reel" at the end of the Movements. As with the other programmatic pieces, it's more about the character or story of the music, the picture it is aurally painting, than establishing a substantive correlation with the subject. Alwyn is trying to capture the mood of Gauguin's paintings rather than Polynesian rhythms or harmonies, although, on the other hand, "The Devil's Reel" does sound like an authentic fiddler's tune. Fans of the English post-Romantics and Impressionist music will appreciate Wass' continued effort to give listeners a chance to hear Alwyn's neglected music.
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AllMusic Review by Patsy Morita
|Preludes (12) for piano|
|Hunter's Moon, for piano|
|Irish Pieces (2), for piano|
|Contes Barbares (Homage to Paul Gauguin), for piano|
|Movements (3) for piano|