Walton; Rubbra Viola Concertos

A superb player and his team go back to Walton’s original with terrific results

Author: 
Edward Greenfield

Walton; Rubbra Viola Concertos

  • Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
  • Meditations on a Byzantine Hymn
  • Concerto for Viola and Orchestra

It is good to welcome a modern recording of Walton’s Viola Concerto in its original orchestration. When in 1938 Frederick Riddle, principal viola of the LSO, first recorded this seminal work (Dutton, 12/93), Walton had yet to slim down the orchestration to make the concerto more accessible. But even dedicated Waltonians may not notice much difference, particularly when in this fine recording the balance marginally favours the solo instrument. Yet as Leo Black suggests in his booklet-notes, the result “perhaps conveys to a greater extent the freshness and grittiness of Walton’s original conception”.

This was in many ways the breakthrough work in Walton’s early career; it brought together in full maturity his distinctive mixture of yearning lyricism and jazzily syncopated writing. Lawrence Power serves the work superbly, with subtler detail than Lars Anders Tomter (Naxos, 5/96) and a lighter vibrato than Nobuko Imai adopts (Chandos, 4/93). Riddle’s is arguably still the finest version, with speeds marginally faster than modern versions, something approved by Walton. Yet Power, like Tomter and Imai, is not much slower than Riddle in the Andante comodo first movement. In the finale differences in timing between Riddle and modern versions is greater, largely because of the final expansive epilogue, which clearly echoes the accompanied cadenzas of Elgar’s Violin Concerto.

For most Walton enthusiasts the rivals’ couplings will be more attractive but the two Rubbra items here are welcome. His orchestration in the Concerto is never as clear as Walton’s but it suits his musical idiom with its reliance on perfect fourths and other open intervals, as well as plainsong. The Meditations on a Byzantine Theme, the first recording in the version for unaccompanied viola, makes an apt extra. All told, a superb disc, much to be welcomed.

Gramophone Subscriptions

From£67/year

Gramophone Print

Gramophone Print

no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Reviews

Gramophone Reviews

no Print Edition
no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Digital Edition

Gramophone Digital Edition

no Print Edition
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.

© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2018