GLAZUNOV Concerto Ballata PROKOFIEV Concertino
Vilified for the cut-and-paste job that he did on Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, Wilhelm Fitzenhagen has to some extent been exonerated by dint of the fact that most performances still use his edition. It’s probably heresy to say so but his solution to the ending has never seemed to me particularly heinous. Tchaikovsky’s eighth variation (which Fitzenhagen left out altogether) is not especially strong; and by stitching the coda on to what was originally Tchaikovsky’s Var 4, Fitzenhagen created a musical momentum that is not at all ineffective. Arguments can readily be aired about whether Fitzenhagen’s meddling with the order of the variations elsewhere, together with his repositioning of cadenzas and his occasional changes to the text are acts of vandalism, though Tchaikovsky himself did not feel strongly enough about it to impose any sort of ban.
Nevertheless, Jamie Walton here rebuffs Fitzenhagen and goes back to Tchaikovsky’s original. Walton’s taste, discretion and romantic warmth, fused with a lightness of touch, serve as a reminder that it was in the poise and purity of 18th-century music that Tchaikovsky – as he told an uncomprehending Mme von Meck – found solace from life’s woes. Even if you are perfectly happy with the Fitzenhagen version, there is plenty of finesse and imaginative spirit in Walton’s playing, coupled with the sensitive backing of the RPO, to make this a strong contender in a busy field.
Another favourable facet of the CD lies in the couplings. Glazunov’s Concerto ballata of 1931, with its roots still firmly set in the 19th century, provides a vehicle for Walton’s seamless lyricism and glorious tone, as indeed does the central movement of Prokofiev’s late Concertino of 1952, contrasted as that is with the darker, ruminative colours and caustic humour that Walton highlights elsewhere.