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CD And Other Reviews
July 15, 2019
CD and Other Review

Review: Alwyn • Carwithen: Music For String Quartet (Tippett Quartet)

Composers: William Alwyn, Doreen CarwithenCompositions: Three Winter Poems, String Quartet No 1, String Quartet No 2, String Quartet No 3Performers: Tippett QuartetCatalogue Number: Somm SOMM0194 William Alwyn is more known for his 200 film scores, but he composed in many genres. Doreen Carwithen had a relatively brief composing career herself. In 1961, she relocated to Suffolk where she became his amanuensis, literary secretary and second wife, changing her name (understandably) to Mary Alwyn. Although their respective idioms are quite distinct, and despite being composed over a long period – Carwithen’s Quartets in 1945 and 1950, Alwyn’s Winter Landscapes in 1942 and Third Quartet as recently as 1984, the year before his death – they could almost be the products of the same hand to most listeners. The music is tonal, emotionally kaleidoscopic, with lyrical sections abruptly succeeded by rather gnarly anxious passages and, fleetingly, Bartókian unease. It’s not an easy listen. I responded most readily to the second movement of the Carwithen First Quartet with its predominantly contemplative ambience and to the second movement, Adagio, of the Alwyn Quartet where, unexpectedly, a waltz is introduced and then reappears near the conclusion of the work, which is, in effect, the composer’s swansong. However, the real “charm”…

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