Walton: Violin Concerto; Cello Concerto

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Walton
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Cello Concerto
PERFORMER: Dong-Suk Kang (violin), Tim Hugh (cello); English Northern Philharmonia/Paul Daniel
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554325
The shadow of Heifetz still lies across the Violin Concerto, and any newcomer has to compete with his two recordings. Dong-Suk Kang doesn’t yield anything in virtuosity, though he lacks the incredible refinement of Heifetz’s tone. But he and Paul Daniel find great flexibility: the first movement is in a state of almost continuous rubato, giving the big tune space to breathe without letting it sprawl. In the scherzo, the waltz interludes are given the most delightful lilt. The last movement is less convincing: a slightly sluggish tempo, coupled with the wide-open spaces of the acoustic in Leeds Town Hall rob it of the punch that it needs. So I find myself returning to Heifetz’s second recording for a real sense of effortless display coupled with charm.

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The Cello Concerto has never achieved the popularity of the Violin or Viola Concertos, but Tim Hugh makes a convincing case. His way with the music is never forced, the phrasing is always natural, and he can cope equally well with the fireworks of the central scherzo and the gradually emerging passion of the finale. As before, Paul Daniel helps to make the music speak with his sympathetic and flexible handling of the orchestra, and here the Leeds acoustic is more suited to the darker colours of the score. At any price, this version would be a top contender: at budget level it’s a must – but treat yourself to Heifetz in the Violin Concerto as well. Martin Cotton