“All three works here show the composer at the height of his powers. The Second Symphony (1953) was Alwyn's own favourite of his five. Economically argued and cast in two parts, it's a stirring, heartfelt creation, full of striking invention and resplendently scored. Impressive, too, is the Fifth from 1973 (dedicated 'to the immortal memory of Sir Thomas Browne', from whose 1658 elegiac discourse Hydriotaphia the work derives its inspiration), a tightly organised singlemovement essay of considerable emotional impact and touching sincerity. Lloyd-Jones provides a tauter, more convincingly paced view than either of the earlier recordings but the RLPO, enthusiastically though they respond, can't quite match Richard Hickox's LSO (Chandos, only available as a download) in terms of tonal sheen.
Sandwiched between the symphonies comes Lyra angelica, the ravishing concerto for harp and string orchestra that Alwyn penned in 1953-54. Inspired by lines from Christ's Victorieand Triumph (1610) by the English metaphysical poet Giles Fletcher, it's a work of unbounded lyrical beauty and leaves an indelibly rapt impression here.
The immaculate soloist, Suzanne Willison, is placed well forward in the sound picture without any undue masking of detail. In the symphonies, on the other hand, the orchestral balance is neither as effortlessly natural nor helpfully transparent as that struck by the Lyrita engineers three decades earlier – and the distant toot of a car horn breaks the spell after the diminuendoa niente conclusion of No 2's first half.
Small niggles but not enough to withhold a solid recommendation.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“I would… strongly recommend this performance of the Lyra Angelica, Lloyd-Jones and harpist Suzanne Willison revealing more dark and ecstatic poetry than in any other performance had led me to expect.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2005