Anthony Marwood performs works for violin by Walton

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Walton
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Walton
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Partita; Variations on a theme by Hindemith; Spitfire Prelude and Fugue
PERFORMER: Anthony Marwood (violin); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67986

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Walton’s Violin Concerto was written with Jascha Heifetz’s ultra-glossy technique and manner in mind, while also having very different, lyrically reflective things of its own to say. As with any timeless masterwork, there are always other ways of doing things. Anthony Marwood’s un-flashy individualism seems to be operating at an opposite pole to the Heifetz way, and generates memorable results of its own. While Marwood has all the virtuosity that the music demands, nothing is rushed; even with the extremes of pace and stop-start manner of the Presto capriccioso second movement, the design here hangs together quite naturally. He searches out remarkable colours, too – as in the first movement’s orchestral reprise of the main theme, where the shadowy, introspective tone he brings to its countermelody mesmerises the ear.

Alert accompanying by the orchestra sets a benchmark for the musical riches that follow. Outwardly a lightweight example of Walton in his sunny and langorous Italian mood, the Partita is a difficult work to bring off, insisting on needlepoint precision in every orchestral department; Brabbins’s fairly leisurely choice of first-movement tempo reduces risk, but also the music’s energy level, and the flow of the dreamy second-movement ‘Pastorale siciliana’ is also a touch sluggish. While the quick sections of the Hindemith Variations are just as demanding, they are excellently played here, in a performance that does real justice to this glowing and hyper-inventive masterwork. The Spitfire Prelude and Fugue, arranged by Walton from his wartime film score The First of the Few, makes for a rousing conclusion.

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Malcolm Hayes