Bruch/Walton Works for Viola & Orchestra
This outstanding version of the Walton Viola Concerto from Yuri Bashmet, warm and intense, was recorded five years ago, presumably held up for lack of a suitable coupling. Having the three Bruch works may seem odd, but with the passionate Bashmet the mixture works well. After all, both composers are at their most richly lyrical, Walton in his sharp twentieth-century way just as much a romantic as Bruch. It is also worth noting that though in style they are worlds apart, the Bruch Double Concerto and the Walton Concerto date from successive decades, written respectively in 1911 and 1929.
Bashmet’s Russian radio recording of the Walton, issued on Revelation in a coupling with the Britten Spring Symphony, is put out of court by the absurdly close balance of the soloist, which makes this studio recording doubly welcome. Like Kennedy, Bashmet adopts a very slow speed for the opening Andante, but is rather more adept than Kennedy in avoiding sluggishness in his subtle phrasing, with contrasts heightened. He is fast and incisive in the vigorous third subject, and the central scherzo brings a dazzling display of virtuosity, more sharply pointed than with Kennedy. In the finale too Bashmet finds more fun in Walton’s scherzando writing, but then draws out the epilogue at a very slow speed, beautifully sustained, not just by him but by Previn and the orchestra, the ideal accompanists.
The rarely-played Bruch Double Concerto in three compact movements, slow, medium and fast, is better known in the version for clarinet and viola. As performed here by Bashmet with his pure-toned violinist colleague, Viktor Tretyakov, it gains in sensuousness from having the solo instruments closely allied rather than sharply contrasted. It is amazing what a fund of melodic invention Bruch kept into his seventies, not just in this concerto but in the Romance for viola and orchestra of 1912, a glorious piece that harks straight back to the slow movement of the G minor Violin Concerto. Bashmet again gives a heartfelt performance, as he does of the well-known Kol Nidrei; with viola in place of cello, he conveys an extra poignancy in the hesitant themes of the first half, ripely leading up to the lyrical apotheosis. With Bashmet at his finest, and the LSO playing beautifully for both Jarvi and Previn, this is a disc to recommend to anyone with a taste for romantic viola music.'