Walton: Symphony No 1 in B flat minor; Violin Concerto in B minor

Reviewed on Mon 03 Nov, 2014

The First of Walton's two symphonies continues to divide opinion; its final movement was only completed two years after the first three, but clearly inhabits different (whether transitional or recursive) musical territory, particularly in its central, fugally dominated section. I think this tends to detract from the intensity and sense of unity of the work, but do judge for yourself; Gardner and his BBC orchestra turn in a fiery, convincing performance. In the Violin Concerto (a very fine and much more unified work), Tasmin Little's beautifully played solo violin is set slightly back in the sound stage compared to Ida Haendel’s benchmark EMI recording with Paavo Berglund, tending to reframe this music as orchestrally conceived (which works for me). So no criticism at all (and that includes the wonderful Chandos sound); just a gentle reminder of the astonishing legacy of André Previn (RCA) and Haendel in these works.
–Chris Achenbach