Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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WILLIAM WALTON (1902-1983) Spitfire Prelude and Fugue, Sinfonia Concertante (1927 version), Hindemith Variations , March: A History of the English Speaking Peoples   Peter Donohoe (piano) English Northern Philharmonia/Paul Daniel   rec Leeds Town Hall, 3 May, 24-25 October 1996 NAXOS 8.553869 [52.52]
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No messing around - this is a cracking Walton collection.

The Spitfire piece begins in slow sunrise languor and the artists bring out a most touching and vulnerable quality in the big tune. At 2.28 the wraith of Elgar 2 passes across the loudspeakers. The fugue is resplendently active with wall-slapping impact.

After the violin concerto, the Sinfonia Concertante is my favourite Walton concerto. Now if he had only called it a Piano Concerto it might have made more headway. As it is people have to discover it despite its title. The three movements are dedicated to and inspired by members of the Sitwell family who had taken Walton under their wing: 1 Osbert; 2. Edith and 3. Sacheverell. That first movement has resonances with Ireland's Piano Concerto. How many memories are locked in the pages of these movements? This performance of the Osbert movement emphasises the Hispanic shadow and brilliance of the writing. The climax at 6.40 has all the snappy syncopation and emotional blitz of a choreographed thunderstorm. The second movement's peacefulness relates back to the romantic endeavour of the first movement. The finale has an infectious zest.

The Hindemith Variations are rather bright, spare and nervy, well demonstrating the tonal finesse of the recording. The march written for a TV adaptation of Churchill's history is a nice adjunct to the two famous Walton marches. By heck Walton was good at this sort of thing! At a less obvious level there is some nice work for the flutes too.

A winner - marked down only because of the limited playing time. There was room for more.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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