Walton: Symphony No 2; Cello Concerto; Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten

Reviewed on Wed 13 May, 2015

Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Walton survey for Chandos continues in the fine, richly evocative fashion that introduced the series with a memorable coupling of the First Symphony and the Violin Concerto (enthusiastically greeted by Chris Achenbach on 3 November 2014). Here, the spotlight falls on the Second Symphony, the Cello Concerto and the ravishing atmospherics of the Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten. That work, with a theme drawn from the third movement of Britten’s Piano Concerto, sets the tone for the two larger works, Gardiner drawing measurably precise playing from a BBC SO at the top of their form. Its soaringly poetic clarinet is supported by feline and feisty orchestral accompaniment pinned down with revealing exactitude. The same honed precision informs the larger works. The mercurial (erring on the exultant) Second Symphony – Walton’s last – receives fulsome treatment full of fire and feeling. Paul Watkins provides a beautifully nuanced reading of the wistful Cello Concerto, graceful and glowing in its dark-grained astringency.
–Michael Quinn