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SIR WILLIAM WALTON:
Symphony No. 1 in B flat minor. 'Belshazzar's Feast'.
Donald Bell, Philharmonia
Orchestra and Chorus Sir William Walton.
EMI Walton Edition CDM5
65004-2 79m ADD (Rec: 1953/59).
Walton was an extremely good conductor of his own music and this coupling
should need no further recommendation from me. The youthful Philharmonia
was at the height of its interpretative powers when these recordings were
made and this shows in the superbly trenchant playing of the First Symphony.
In many ways this recording blazes a trail similar to Harty's equally glorious
mid-30s performance for Decca but naturally this is recorded in far superior
sound. The menace of the Allegro assai is well caught as is the biting
savagery and eloquent triumph of the Finale, which is played at daredevil
speed causing this listener to almost drop from the edge of his seat! The
same directness and exhaustive élan is imposed on 'Belshazzar's Feast',
not one of my favourite Walton works but superbly structured nonetheless.
Donald Bell is a suitably accomplished baritone whilst the newly formed
Philharmonia Chorus have a field day in the full-throated passages especially
in 'Praise ye the God of Gold'. Walton is unbuttoned but at the same time
his firm grip makes this reading one of the best ever, eclipsing many of
his notable successors such as Hickox who is excellent but who must yield
to the authority of this unrepeatable recording. EMI's new transfers are
excellent in their ambience and range and I have no hesitation in urging
all collectors to acquire this disc immediately.
See also comparative review of other
recordings of the First symphony
Reviews from previous
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