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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    




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William WALTON (1902-1983)
The World Of William Walton
Overture: Portsmouth Point
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
Tango-Pasodoble, Valse, Jodelling Song, Scotch Rhapsody, Popular Song (from Façade)
Peggy Ashcroft, Jeremy Irons (speakers)
London Sinfonietta/Riccardo Chailly
Andante tranquillo (first movement of Violin Concerto)
Tasmin Little (violin)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton
Movements I & IV (from Five Bagatelles)
Nicola Hall (guitar)
Set me as a seal upon thine heart
Timothy Moule (treble), William Kendall (Tenor)
Choir of Winchester Cathedral/David Hill
Crown Imperial
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton
Charge and Battle (from Henry V)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton
Finale (from Symphony no. 2)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
The sing aloud . . . . (from Belshazzar's Feast)
London Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra/Sir Georg Solti
Rec Decca, 1954-1995
DECCA 470 127 2 [70.30] Bargain price
Decca has repackaged its famous LP series, 'The World of . . . ', for the CD age; but whereas the previous incarnation usually brought prospective purchasers a collection of representative complete pieces, now the trend is towards movements culled from their home, à la Classic FM. Reason enough to dismiss the CD out of hand, you might think. And it is tempting to do just that. Except, of course, that all listeners have to start somewhere, and who knows where that might be. At an appealing price this compilation does give an intelligently chosen selection of key works by Walton, in performances which (mostly) sound splendid and are given by major artists. It's all a matter of who will enjoy less than the complete pieces. Had Walton wanted these movements to be played separately, he would have written them as individual works . . . .

That said, there are some distinguished performances here, and of complete pieces too. The mainstay of the selection comes from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton, whose Walton series is now in the process of reissue. As a sample of their prowess, try the rousing performance of Crown Imperial. Litton has a real enthusiasm for Walton's music and each of his performances is truly committed. In addition his orchestra is of international calibre and plays with warmth and fire as the scores demand.

Both Solti and Ashkenazy conduct enjoyable, highly charged performances of music taken, respectively, from Belshazzar's Feast and the Second Symphony, though the former doesn't really work out of its context, being more of an extract than a complete and self-contained movement. So too the extracts from Façade, though it is always intriguing to hear this entertaining piece in an unfamiliar performance. No two deliveries of this remarkable score are ever the same, and Peggy Ashcroft and Jeremy Irons are convincing in their particular way.

Nearly all the recordings are recent and sound well; all save two come from the 1990s. Solti's Belshazzar's Feast (from 1977) is a 'sound spectacular', but the opening item, Portsmouth Point conducted by Sir Adrian Boult (from 1954) is decidedly not. In fact the sound is dim and ill focused, and this track therefore gets the compilation off to a disappointing start. Nothing wrong with the performance, but the recorded sound undermines it. There are some splendid things among this compilation, but this is not really one of them.

Terry Barfoot


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