Walton Orchestral Works

Author: 
Edward Greenfield

Walton Orchestral Works

  • Façade, Suite No. 1
  • Façade, Suite No. 2
  • Façade, Suite No. 3 (arr/orch. C Palmer)
  • Siesta
  • Sinfonia Concertante
  • Portsmouth Point
  • Popular Birthday
  • Façade, Suite No. 1
  • Façade, Suite No. 2
  • Façade, Suite No. 3 (arr/orch. C Palmer)
  • Siesta
  • Sinfonia Concertante
  • Portsmouth Point
  • Popular Birthday

With the three orchestral Facade suites understandably highlighted in this issue from the Chandos Walton series, there is a danger that the claims of the biggest work here will be ignored, in effect the first of Walton's concertos, his Sinfonia concertante of 1926 adapted from a ballet-score he had written for Diaghilev. The great impresario rejected it, perhaps not surprisingly when one of the two pianists at the play-through was Walton himself, never a performer.
The Sinfonia concertante (1926-7) with its sharply memorable ideas in each movement and characteristically high voltage, has never had the attention it deserves, and that is all the more regrettable when there is such a dearth of attractive British piano concertos. To try and get it better known, Walton in 1943 reduced the orchestration and made other amendments, but to little avail. Towards the end of his life he told Stewart Craggs, his meticulous bibliographer, that he found the earlier version ''better and more interesting''. Like the Conifer account with Kathryn Stott as soloist, this new issue now restores the original version, though the differences are hardly noticeable without close study of the score. Even the expansion of two passages, mentioned by Christopher Palmer in his notes, involves only an extra beat or so.
The soloist, Eric Parkin, is perfectly attuned to the idiom, warmly melodic as well as jazzily syncopated, making this the most sympathetic performance on disc since the 1945 recording with Phyllis Sellick as soloist and Walton himself conducting. I still prefer the broader tempo for the Maestoso introduction chosen for that vintage recording—it really is majestic—to the brisker way that both Parkin and Stott have. Otherwise, Parkin even more than Stott points rhythms infectiously and shapes melodies persuasively, though the recording sets the piano a little more backwardly, no doubt to reflect the idea that this is not a full concerto.
Jan Latham-Konig, earlier brought in as conductor for the Walton concertante violin works when Bryden Thomson died, here proves most understanding of the composer's 1920s idiom, giving the witty Facade movements just the degree of jazzy freedom they need. The Third Suite, devised and arranged by Christopher Palmer, draws on three apt movements from the Facade entertainment, ending riotously with the rag-music of ''Something lies beyond the scene''. That is a first recording, and so is Constant Lambert's arrangement of the Overture, Portsmouth Point, which as well as reducing the orchestra replaces many of Walton's elaborate changes of time-signature with aptly placed accents in 3/4 or 4/4. In some ways it gains from extra clarity. Siesta is given an aptly cool performance under Thomson, and the Popular Birthday is Malcolm Arnold's fragmentary linking of Happy Birthday to You with the ''Popular Song'' from Facade, originally written for Walton's seventieth birthday. The impact of some of the pieces, notably in Facade, would have been even sharper, had the warmly atmospheric Chandos recording placed the orchestra a fraction closer.'

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