Any new recording of the Walton concerto will always be measured against Jascha Heifetz, who commissioned the work in 1935, edited the solo part and gave the first performances, throwing down a challenge to all others to do it better, or different. Ida Haendel and Yehudi Menuhin were able to soften the granitic contours but few others have suggested that there is more to the piece than the mighty Heifetz mined out of it.
Now along comes Anthony Marwood and turns our ears around. From first utterance, he finds an expansive, Elgarian colour to the piece, a breadth of phrase that matches Heifetz for precision and a depth of field that hints at Anglican hymnody. Even to those like me who have consumed more Walton than full English breakfasts, this is a standout interpretation of the concerto, tautly supported by the BBC Scottish Symphony, conductor Martin Brabbins.
The 1963 Variations on a theme by Hindemith are likewise commanding, with sinuous woodwind solos and a structural consistency that not every conductor discovers. Beside these major works, Walton’s 1957 Partita for orchestra fails to sustain interest and his wartime Spitfire Prelude is simply flashy. Walton is very much an on-off composer. What’s remarkable about this recording is that the performance transcends his shortcomings.
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