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Reviews: Walton: The Symphonies - Owain Arwel Hughes

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Reviews: 4

Site review by Geohominid July 24, 2010
Performance:   Sonics:    
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

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Review by Jonalogic July 26, 2010 (11 of 19 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I respectfully disagree, quite markedly so.

All behavioural psychologists and biologists out there (hi, guys!) will be familiar with the concept of imprinting. In the 19th century, Konrad Lorenz showed how goslings imprint on and treat the first moving object they came across (in that case, his rubber wading boots) as their mother.

The same thing can happen with recordings. I love the Walton symphonies, and formed an immediate and unhealthy relationship with both the Previn/LSO Walton 1 and the Szell/Cleveland Walton 2 as soon as I heard them on vinyl. I was not the only one so afflicted; the passage of time has shown both these recordings to be both timeless and definitive.

I am a teeny promiscuous sometimes, though. I have a soft spot for the late, great Charles Mackerrasís reading of both symphonies on EMI RBCD. Andrew Litton also did some fine recordings and even finer live performances. It is to be regretted that BIS did not turn to him. And let's not forget there is even a good Colin Davis/LSO performance of the Walton 1 (albeit in unpleasant Barbican/LSO Live sound) on SACDÖ

The astute amongst you will, of course, note that I havenít said anything yet about these performances. Nor will I. I donít like being unnecessarily unpleasant in print. Letís just say the're not very good.

Take the first symphony- by turns tense, malicious (read his own instructions, 'con malizia'), ultra-romantic and - finally - triumphant. It's full of passion, fire and some very hairy orchestral writing. Let's just say these didn't make it off the digits and into my ears. 'Limp' is the best word I can think of here.

This is apparent from the very first bars- these should be hushed, expectant, tense, foreboding and alert. Only, they aren't here. It's all very flaccid. We're not talking shades of good/bad/indifferent, here; this is night and day. Anyone who has loves this music, has heard it live or knows some of the fine performances on vinyl or RBCD (some of which are detailed above) will rapidly come to the conclusion that this performance just doesn't make it.

This is one of the great British symphonies- only it just doesn't sound like it, here. Frankly, this is technically such a demanding piece that the orchestra is pretty hard-pushed sometimes to play the notes, let alone the music.

Even the sound is not up to BISís usually excellent house standards. It's woolly, rather bloated. and unfocussed. I can only conclude the hall was problematical.

All in all, this a great opportunity, missed. So we need to keep waiting...

In the meantime. RCA should seriously consider re-releasing the classic Previn/LSO performances of the Walton 1. Whilst youíre at it, there is also a great Shostakovich 5 and Vaughan Williams symphonic cycle lurking in your vaultsÖ

And nice Mr Sony, could you pretty please do the same for Szellís great Walton 2 and stellar Walton variations on a themes of Hindemith?

I will buy a job lot of both, if that helps.

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Review by Domimag July 28, 2010 (8 of 15 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
First I have to say that William Walton is not in my first "top-ten" prefered composer but I'm mind-opened and curious of all music (in the area "classical")
The English is not my native language, I'll be brief. About the recording quality this is the best choice for the two symphonies, especially the second, which is one of the best record of the BIS label (I have 88 BIS SACD today).
About the interpretation, for the first, you can probably find (slightly) better with Previn and Walton himself (as we say in French "we are not going to be more royalist than the king") but version of Owain Arwel Hughes is very good and a good choice for classical music lovers.
For the second symphony, I'll be more direct, this is the best one I heard and this is the first time that I like the Walton's 2nd symphony ... and yes, french orchestras are able to play english music very well as english orchestras can play french music (thanks Colin Davis, John Eliot Gardiner...).

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Review by krisjan October 20, 2010 (8 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

http://www.HRAudio.net/showmusic.php?title=6569#reviews

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