Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Violin Concerto in B minor op. 61 [46:13]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Violin Concerto [30:48]
Salvatore Accardo (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox
rec. Studio 1, Abbey Road, London December 1991. DDD.

You would be hard-pushed to better this disc as a coupling. It brings together two passionately grand English violin concertos. The recording is clear and potent whether in sotto voce musing from the solo, in tingling shivers in the finale of the Elgar or in the full-on orchestral tempests of the heart of the two works.

I first became aware of Accardo from his pioneering DG set of the Paganini violin concertos with the LPO and Dutoit - redone in 1999 with Cremona’s Orchestra da Camera Italiana. He swam into vision again with the Philips edition of the complete works of Max Bruch for violin and orchestra. Each dates from vinyl stereo days of the 1970s but each has been reissued on CD though the Paganini less so than the Bruch. Next I recall Accardo being centre-stage in a late night relay by BBC Radio 3 of the Elgar concerto with (I think) the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Colin Davis. That would have been circa 1974 and it was one of those gutsy transformational performances that scored its way deep into the memory. Almost two decades later this disc appeared or more accurately the Collins Classics CD original on 13382. Speaking from fading memory this is not quite as molten as the broadcast version but it is a very strong contender. My all-time favourite is the Heifetz with an uncharacteristically inspired Sargent leading the very same orchestra as appears here. Looking at the Elgar alone I also rate highly the Zukerman with Barenboim (1970s CBS), the two Kennedy recordings (EMI). Bean (EMI) and Haendel (BBC Radio CD rather than Testament). The last four minutes of the the Elgar both nourish the heart with nobility and excite with adrenaline. The Walton is also good with tempos at times pushed somewhat but with leeway afforded Accardo for amorous rhapsodising. This is another good performance with equally fine attention to transparency and audio fidelity. Hickox and Accardo take their time most satisfyingly in the dreamy ostinato in the middle movement making the zest and flitter of the presto sections all the more effective. In the finale seductive tenderness (4:20) meets rapturous grandeur.

The useful liner-note is by Eric Roseberry.

A coupling of the self-same works and performances can also be had on Regis RRC1014.

A generous coupling majoring on inspiring playing from Accardo and colleagues matched with a refined yet leonine recording.

Rob Barnett

Inspiring playing from Accardo and colleagues matched with a refined yet leonine recording.