William WALTON (1902-1983)
Symphony No. 1 in B flat minor (1932-35) [44:13]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Louis Frémaux
Violin Concerto (1938-39) [30:58]
Salvatore Accardo (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox
rec. Studio 1, Abbey Road, London, December 1991. All Saints Church, Tooting, London, 1989. DDD
Frémaux’s Walton credentials are pretty much impeccable. He first presented them with the CBSO in the late 1970s. Their sensational Crown Imperial and Orb and Sceptre were coupled on an EMI quadraphonic LP with the Gloria and the Coronation Te Deum. These remain smashing performances, dazzlingly, even opulently, recorded. Everything fell into place: from the luxuriously swept harp glissandi to the tiering of the choral singing from the choirs to the snap and taut rip-rap of the march rhythms. They have not been trounced by any of the competition. Even now the mass of directional information in the Te Deum recording seems splendidly to allude to more than the pedestrian two channels. It’s no wonder it has been much reissued (review).

The auguries were good then but the delivery in the Symphony is less so. Yes, there’s a cherishable sighing satisfaction at 5:16 in I and the richly upholstered depth and breadth of the orchestral image is bound to please. At 11:01 there was never better gruff brass separation and the singing strings have a steel core that promises torment. There’s also the pin-sharp motif at end of I from the brass. However the tricky intricacies of overlay and interpolation are not negotiated with as much precision as I had wished. This is not something you encounter with Previn (with the LSO or the RPO) or for that matter with Boult. And so it continues; it’s good but it’s nowhere near as crisply shaped and defined as it should be. Perhaps it was the chemistry between conductor and Philharmonia. A Frémaux/CBSO recording of the Symphony might well have been a different proposition.
As for the Walton Violin Concerto this has appeared before on Regis RRC 1014 with the Elgar. It was first issued on Collins Classics in 1992 as 1338-2 where it was accorded an honest yet unglamorous recording. There’s no striving for assertive effect. As a performance the Walton is pressed hard and is equally delightful in brilliance as in sultry poetry. 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.
Good but not wonderful.

Rob Barnett
Good but not wonderful.