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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Violin Concerto (1910) [46.13]
William WALTON (1902-1983)

Violin Concerto (1939) [30.48]
Salvatore Accardo (violin)
LSO/Richard Hickox
rec. December 1991, Abbey Road Studios. DDD
originally issued in 1992 on Collins Classics 1338-2
REGIS RRC 1014 [77.01]


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In some quarters this recording, when first issued by Collins, received a dusty reception. The detail escapes me now but at the time of the discís appearance I remembered a white hot BBC broadcast of the Elgar in which Accardo was joined by the Boston Symphony conducted by Colin Davis. That broadcast was in the mid-1970s while Davis's name was still tightly entwined with the Bostonians and his lacklustre Sibelius symphony cycle was still fresh on the scene - though lauded to the skies.

I did not associate Accardo with these concertos. Linking him with the six Paganinis which he recorded complete for DG in 1974, I did not rush to buy the Collins CD. Although we have lost Davis for this recording Hickox punches well above his weight. He has sometimes given the impression of production-line routine as in his Prokofiev War and Peace (Chandos). In this case all such fears can be stilled. Here he presses forward, balances orchestral detail wisely and shrewdly focuses aggression, accentuation and emphasis. In fact the orchestral contribution in both concertos is spot-on with Hickox on his toes, drawing surprisingly burly playing from the LSO in the belligerent moments and no want of poetry in the reflective pages.

On top of these qualities, James Mallinson and John Timperley did a supreme job with the technical side; witness the lush yet carefully etched sound of the horns at once mellow and imperious (7.19-7.21, 18.01 tr. 3) in the closing measures of the Elgar. Accardo convinces you that here is a big statement although his tone inclines towards slender grace rather than being juicily voluptuous. Haendel's (flawed with Boult on Testament, better on BBC IMP with Pritchard) or Sammons' (Naxos again) versions are more extrovert and fruity. Unlike Heifetz (with Sargent on an unmissable Naxos Historical) Accardo's note-group definition is not breathtakingly faultless. This is nevertheless an exemplary recording which any open-minded Elgarian prepared to countenance a reading from someone other than Menuhin should hear.

The Walton is pressed hard and is delightful both in sultry poetry as in brilliance. That very poetry is attested by Accardo's superbly pointed way with the little chaffing figure in the first movement at 4.43 and the succulent upwards slide at 4.33 in the finale.

These are fallible or at least highly idiosyncratic moments in Accardo's hands but my suggestion is that you disregard the naysayers and enjoy this generous budget price issue alongside Heifetz's Elgar/Walton (Naxos, budget price). For the Elgar, Zukerman (Sony) is excellent in modern sound as is Sammons' vintage recording (very special interpretative qualities override the neanderthal sonics) and Dong Suk Kang also on Naxos. A first choice for the Walton in modern sound would be either Kang on Naxos or Haendel on EMI Classics although I also like Joshua Bell on Decca.

Rob Barnett

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