Alwyn is possibly better known for his 200-odd film scores than for his other compositions. This is the fourth CD of film music recorded by Chandos with the excellent Rumon Gamba in charge. Philip Lane, who specialises in film music reconstructions, has welded various cues into suites. The notes in the booklet are excellent and detailed.
Alwyn was at the height of his powers in the ‘50s. Like all good film composers he was the servant of the film, tailoring his scores well to their subjects. The last sections of The Black Tent (1956) catches his style perfectly. It is visionary and sweeping music, as is the short clip from The Ship That Died of Shame (1955). The Adagio and Spanish Dance from The Master of Ballantrae are excellent; better still is the prelude to Fortune is a Woman (1957). His film music style is headily romantic, perfectly exemplified in They Flew Alone (1941) complete with piano solo, a favourite style of the period. By contrast, the Andante from Miranda (1947) is a freewheeling vocal alluringly sung by Charlotte Trepass.
With the Irish troubles as a backdrop, Shake Hands with the Devil (1959) was one his strongest scores. It is splendid music, effectively wielding a tough, tragic theme in a slow march with interesting variations. Alwyn wrote many documentary scores (a genre that is shamefully overlooked by feature film buffs as a rule) and The Manchester Suite from A City Speaks (1946) shows him in top form.