One of the most grown-up review sites around

52,670 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  


Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
(currently suspended)


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

Haydn Scottish Songs

Choral Music

Liszt Sonata

Renaissance Bohemia

Cyril Scott piano music

Hahn Complete Songs

Piano Sonatas 6,7,8 Osborne

Symphony for solo piano

alternatively AmazonUK   AmazonUS



William WALTON (1902-1983)
Viola Concerto (original version) (1928-29) [24:51]
Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986)
Meditations on a Byzantine Hymn Op.117 (1962) [11:15]
Viola Concerto in A major Op.75 (1952) [25:05]
Lawrence Power (viola)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov
rec. City Hall, Glasgow, 16-17 September 2006 (concertos); Henry Wood Hall, London, 27 September 2006 (Meditations)
HYPERION CDA67587 [61:13] 

At first glance, Walton and Rubbra appear unlikely bedfellows; the former, a sophisticate with a penchant for Elgar and Puccini - the latter, a modern Bruckner rooted in the spirituality of Tudor church music. Nonetheless, a closer look reveals two men with working class backgrounds and sufficient character to withstand the passing whims of changing musical fashion. 

Moreover, as this fine Hyperion disc demonstrates, Rubbra’s Viola Concerto of 1952 has several points in common with Walton’s masterpiece - composed twenty-three years earlier. It uses a similar formal scheme, two deeply felt movements framing a sprightly scherzo, is again the product of inner emotional turmoil, and likewise exploits the motif of a rising/falling minor third - although without Walton’s major/minor ambivalence. Both works display an acute understanding of the viola’s husky timbre. Each is in the key of A minor. 

Leo Black’s excellent accompanying notes refer to Rubbra’s close friendship with Gerald Finzi. This is appropriate for Rubbra’s concerto has several telling moments of Finzian serenity. Its finale, a set of of ‘meditations’, attains a profound inner peace redolent of “thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears”. It is a scandal that such music remains so rarely heard. 

The Walton concerto has been recorded several times. I have a special fondness for Paul Doktor’s account recorded in the 1960s for CBS and the Primrose and Riddle interpretations with Walton at the helm have achieved classic status. This Power/Volkov performance enterprisingly uses the original 1928/29 version of the score and is the first modern recording to do so. 

It is always fascinating to hear a composer’s initial thoughts, although one must remember that Walton, a perfectionist, remained a fine reviser of his music. One need only compare the original version of ‘Scapino’ as heard in the vintage Stock/Chicago SO recording with the more compact later incarnation to appreciate this ability. The 1962 revision of the concerto lightens the scoring and adroitly introduces a harp; it remains hauntingly beautiful. Crucially, the earlier edition betrays at times a rawness that comes closer to revealing a little more of the inner man than may be its composer intended.

These fine concertos flank another Rubbra piece, the ‘Meditations on a Byzantine Hymn’ (1962) for solo viola, which acts as a bridge from Walton’s world to Rubbra’s. 

Lawrence Power’s performance of the solo part in these pieces is quite exceptional. Here is pinpoint intonation; an eloquence that transcends criticism and a flair for narrative that grips the listener from first note to last. In this, he is aided admirably by the conductor Ilan Volkov who grasps not only Walton’s dynamism but also is intuitively at one with the more elusive Rubbra idiom. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra rises to the occasion with scintillating playing.

For the listener requiring a modern recording of the Walton, this is an instant recommendation although Helen Callus’s brilliant interpretation of the 1962 revision for ASV should not be overlooked. However, this spaciously recorded Hyperion disc is rendered indispensable by its inclusion of the Rubbra concerto.

Nicholas Scott

see also Review by Dominy Clements



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.