WORKS: Piano Quartet; Anon in Love; Valse from Façade; Passacaglia; Violin Sonata
PERFORMER: Nash Ensemble; John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Craig Ogden (guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67340
The Nash Ensemble’s contribution on disc to the Walton centenary celebrations is planned with characteristic imagination and generosity. The two main works are the Piano Quartet of his teenage years, overflowing with ideas and influences, and the Romantically expressive Violin Sonata of his full maturity. Both are played with understanding, subtlety and a wide range of colours, well captured by the microphones. In the Sonata, the violinist Marianne Thorsen displays a ravishingly sweet tone in the upper register, for example in the muted coda of the first movement – though the equilibrium of this lovely passage is disturbed by the disappearance of a minim beat in bar 240.
The closest competition in both works comes from a disc in the Chandos Walton series, played by Kenneth Sillito and colleagues from the Academy of St Martin’s with the pianist Hamish Milne. These are slightly more extrovert readings in a bigger acoustic, and perhaps steal the benchmark recommendation by a whisker. However, whereas the Chandos disc contains only those two items, Hyperion adds another 20 minutes’ worth of outstanding performances. John Mark Ainsley and Craig Ogden deliver the 1959 cycle Anon in Love with even more finesse than Ainsley achieved on his earlier recording (with Carlos Bonell, again for Chandos), while Ian Brown is wittily laid-back in a 1923 solo piano arrangement of the ‘Valse’ from Façade. And Paul Watkins contributes a strongly characterised reading of the solo cello Passacaglia which Walton wrote towards the end of his long and richly productive career. Anthony Burton