Miss Julie  (Alwyn) - Vilem Tausky;  Jill Gomez, Benjamin Luxon, Della Jones & John Mitchinson  (2-Lyrita 2218)
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Miss Julie  (Alwyn) - Vilem Tausky;  Jill Gomez, Benjamin Luxon, Della Jones & John Mitchinson  (2-Lyrita 2218)
OP0567. MISS JULIE (Alwyn), recorded 1979, w.Vilem Tausky Cond. Philharmonia Orchestra; Jill Gomez, Benjamin Luxon, Della Jones & John Mitchinson. (England) 2-Lyrita 2218, w.Elaborate 47pp. Libretto-Brochure. Final Copy! - 5020926221827


“It is good to have this superb recording of William Alwyn's colourful and confident adaptation of Strindberg's play on CD, sounding even more compellingly atmospheric in the new format. I listened to the discs before looking back at what I wrote about the LP issue, and I fully endorse the points I made then. Alwyn, an outstanding film-composer, here consistently demonstrates his mastery of atmosphere and timing to bring out the chilling intensity of this story of Miss Julie's sudden infatuation for her father's man-servant. He adapted the play himself, and understood far more than most librettists the need for economy over text. His principal modification of Strindberg is that to the play's three characters- Miss Julie, Jean the manservant and Kristin the cook - he adds the gamekeeper, Ulrik, who acts as a commentator. So in his drunken scene of Act 1 he makes explicit what is happening, to the embarrassment of both Miss Julie and Jean. He also shoots (offstage) the lapdog which Miss Julie wants to take away with her on her elopement, a convenient but less horrific alternative to the slaughter of the pet finch in the original Strindberg.

Alwyn, with those modifications presents the developments in the story with Puccinian sureness, and the idiom, harmonically rich and warmly lyrical, grateful for singers and players alike, brings occasional Puccinian echoes which, along with reminiscences of other composers, add to the music's impact rather than making it seem merely derivative. So in Act 2, Miss Julie's growing uncertainty over Jean's love is reflected in a passage which initially brings an echo of the heroine's last solo in Walton's TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, and builds to a passionate climax which erupts first in echoes of FANCIULLA DEL WEST and then in a direct quotation of the main theme of the trio from Strauss' DER ROSENKAVALIER, a motif repeated later. By any reckoning this is a confidently red-blooded opera, and I hope the success of this recording will encourage a staged production. It certainly deserves one.

The performance under Vilem Tausky is even finer than I had remembered, strong and forceful with superb singing from all the principals. Jill Gomez is magnificent in the title-role, producing ravishing sounds, not least in the glorious mid-summer night solo, expansively melodic but with wide-leaping intervals, which comes at the end of the first of the two scenes of Act 1. Benjamin Luxon gives a wonderfully swaggering portrait of the unscrupulous manservant, vocally firmer than on almost any of his other recordings. Della Jones is splendidly characterful too, relishing her venomous cry of 'Bitch!’ when, at the very end of scene 1, she realizes Julie and Jean have gone off together. John Mitchinson is characterful too, in his drunken scene reminding me of Peter Pears as Albert Herring. The two discs, as before, come with a libretto and an excellent essay by Rodney Milnes, together with illuminating quotations from the composer.”

- Edward Greenfield, GRAMOPHONE, March, 1993

"British composer William Alwyn (1905-85), not only wrote music, he wrote poetry, translated French poetry, and painted, all at a highly impressive level. And he played the flute professionally, joining the London Symphony Orchestra in his twenties. Furthermore, he was a bit of a prodigy. At the age of 15, he entered the Royal Academy of Music. At 21, he became a professor of composition at the very same place.

Alwyn composed at a fairly respectable pace. In the Forties and Fifties, he provided scores for films (ODD MAN OUT, THE WINSLOW BOY, THE ROCKING HORSE WINNER among many, many others) and incidental music for the BBC and for Disney (both films and television). This led him to dissatisfaction with everything he had written before 1940, and he rejected it in favor of a fresh start. As we have begun to find out through the efforts of the William Alwyn Society, it's a good thing he didn't actually destroy these early scores, some of which, like the Piano Concerto #1, are quite fine. Alwyn reacted to his self-assessed ‘woeful lack of technique’ by concentrating on a Waltonian neo-classicism, à la that composer's Sinfonia concertante, and counterpoint. By the late Forties, however, Alwyn felt sufficiently capable to allow neo-Romantic elements into his music. The Piano Concerto #2 (1960), for example, sings as passionately as Sergei Rachmaninoff. With the patronage of the conductor John Barbirolli, Alwyn began a series of four symphonies (1949, 1953, 1956, 1959) - four different approaches to symphonic form conceived, according to the composer, at one go. One final symphony followed, the Fifth, subtitled ‘Hydriotaphia’ and inspired by the prose of Sir Thomas Browne, in 1973.

The Fifties (notably the Symphony #3, the String Trio, and the Derby Day Overture) saw Alwyn's awakening interest in dodecaphony, although typically he approached the technique with the object of reconciling it with traditional tonality. This interest increased in the Sixties with works like his opera MISS JULIE (1977), a work that draws from several currents of Modern music - neo-Romanticism, Impressionism, Bergian Expressionism, neoclassicism, and dodecaphony. An opera with great tunes and a drama dynamo (Alwyn furnished his own libretto), it had to wait twenty years for its first staging in 1997.

Alwyn retired from teaching and various organizational posts in the Sixties to devote himself to composition, writing, and painting. In 1962, he sold his fabulous collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, bought, of course, when that group was scorned. Alwyn, in a non-demonstrative way, kept a lively independence of mind. What with changes in postwar musical fashion, his scores were considered old-fashioned, although he always had high-profile champions and recording companies interested in his work. In the scarcity of live performances, I suspect most of us made our acquaintance with his music through recording. With the rise of the mainly retrospective outlook toward the Twentieth Century, especially neo-Romantics, Alwyn has reaped the benefits. Obscure parts of his catalogue, including his film music, are being explored, and at least three labels have issued a complete cycle of his symphonies.”

- Steve Schwartz, Classical.Net