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Seen & Heard
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Cello Concerto in E minor op.85 (1919) [27:59]
Nikolai MIASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Cello Concerto in C minor Op.66 (1944) [26:58]
Jamie Walton (cello)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alexander Briger
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, September 2006
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD116 [54:56]
sooner has Natalie Cleinís recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto
left my reviewing desk than Jamie Waltonís arrives. Like
Clein, Walton is a bit of a sniffer and the close recording
picks up a number of anticipatory intakes of breath, albeit
not as obtrusively as was the case in the Clein recording.
two performances espouse different approaches and traditions.
Where Cleinís emotive playing can lead to metrical stretching,
Waltonís is an altogether more understated and linear performance.
He has a multi-variegated vibrato which he employs with consistent
subtlety. The result is a reading of real nobility and refinement,
one that illuminates the music from within, and that never
stretches the material too far. He maintains tension throughout
the concerto and revels in the very fast bowing of the scherzo;
dextrous wrist and forearm control here as he dispatches
the writing with illuminating rapidity but not superficiality.
Itís actually terpsichorean.† He never lets the slow movementís
tempo relax too far or slacken. His expressive shading is
certainly deliberately circumscribed but it is exceptionally
well characterised. In his avoidance of rhetorical gestures
he reminds me of the great French lineage in this work Ė Fournier,
Navarra and Tortelier in particular. The sense of lyric nobility
is palpable and admirable. From 4:00 in the finale he really
does drive forward Ė the only time I would even slightly
baulk at tempo choices Ė but I sense this is of a piece;
itís to intensify the climax at 4:32, to hint at the hysteria
within the writing. Iím also not quite sure about his smears
at the very end.
Iím powerfully impressed by Waltonís playing and also by
Alexander Brigerís thoroughly idiomatic conducting. He brings
out the brass, and the lower strings in particular with outstanding
eloquence though the recording isnít always the most sympathetic.
Briger is Charles Mackerrasís nephew, I believe.†
the Miaskovsky concerto is often described as ďautumnalĒ itís
particularly apt that Walton has chosen to promote it with
the Elgar. Iíve racked my brains to think of a faster performance
of the 1944 concerto but I donít believe I have. Waltonís
even faster than Rostropovich in his Moscow/Kondrashin performance,
now in a Brilliant box, and also the first ever recording,
made with Sargent in London. Speed isnít everything of course;
sometimes itís nothing. But Walton has mitigated those moments
of structural weakness in the work that can lead some players
to excessive lingering Ė I shudder to remember Rodin and
his 1996 recording, which stretched into the dim distant
is a warm, sympathetic recording, that never wallows, that
remains strongly directional whilst never stinting the many
lyrical episodes. The wind solos are excellent and once again
Briger distinguishes himself, setting a firm architectural
goal. Thereís no lingering in the first movement second subject Ė linear
clarity allied to tonal warmth is the guiding principle underlying
this performance. Donít expect any gauche exaggerations either.
This ensures the second of the two movements Ė the one that
usually suffers the most from over-indulgent performers Ė is
heard as an unbroken line with a basic tempo adhered to,
not inflexibly, but with musical and structural insight.
course there are other, more overtly expressive ways to play
both these works. But Walton seems to me to belong to the
Anglo-French school in his interpretative stance in both
concertos; affecting but not lachrymose, noble but not unyielding.
I happen to be sympathetic to his approach and consequently
find his playing admirable. To those who want more juice
in up-to-date performances Clein will offer it in the Elgar
and MÝrk in the Miaskovsky but neither seems to me at all
superior to Walton.
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