This set has been around
for some time. It was in fact released
in this form to meet the centenary of
Waltonís birth but itís certainly no
bad thing to be reminded of the many
virtues of this classic collection.
Those who have the LP box on their shelves
will be familiar with these (mainly)
1960s items, ones that have long withstood
the test of time.
One of the most compelling
statements is Francescattiís Violin
Concerto, laced with the Frenchmanís
vibrant sweetness and virtuoso panache.
In typically upfront CBS sound we can
luxuriate in his luscious tone and in
the finale we can hear his languorous
romanticism in all its glory. In a big
field this and the two Heifetz recordings
still stand amongst the most commanding,
their emotional temperatures differing,
their tones offering different perspectives.
Belshazzar's Feast, also on the second
disc, is less compelling. The engineers
seem have attempted to inflate the choirís
sound but it still sounds undernourished
and to lack weight and sonority. Baritone
Walter Cassel isnít really rhetorical
enough. The orchestral playing however
is first class Ė incisive horns and
percussion and a fine sense of direction
from Ormandy. The Capriccio Burlesco
gets a punchy, brassy outing.
The Johannesburg Festival
Overture is a vibrant fugato full of
incessant and unremitting colour and
is despatched with heady dexterity by
the NYPO under Kostelanetz. It shares
disc space with Szellís cracking and
very special Second Symphony recording.
His crunching, aggressive drive scorches
the opening movement whilst the uneasy
lyricism of the central Lento assai
manages to journey from disquiet to
intensity to the pizzicato and percussion
passage that presages a return to the
earlier material. Itís a journey Szell
traverses with seamless intensity and
control, qualities that apply equally
to the finale with its hooded drama.
Szell and Cleveland had a special association
with the Hindemith Variations and they
map its contours with great polish and
conviction, bringing out its serious
and thoughtful curvature with precision.
The Partita was premiered by these forces
and they do very well by the crisp humour
of the finale and the sense of wistful
warmth that pervades the central Pastorale
Siciliana. Not present in this set is
Paul Doktorís recording of the Viola
Concerto with Edward Downes so maybe
Sony can get around to that in due course.
Otherwise this is a vibrant, reasonably
annotated, musically invigorating set.
review by Rob Barnett