Walton: Variations on a Theme by Hindemith; Sinfonia concertante; Spitfire Prelude and Fugue,

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COMPOSERS: Walton
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Variations on a Theme by Hindemith; Sinfonia concertante; Spitfire Prelude and Fugue,
PERFORMER: Peter Donohoe (piano); English Northern Philharmonia/Paul Daniel
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553869
Following their praised accounts of Walton’s symphonies, Paul Daniel and his ‘old’ orchestra from Opera North here tackle some of the composer’s less frequently recorded orchestral scores. The Sinfonia concertante for piano and orchestra (heard here in its original 1927 version) has suffered by comparison with the three string concertos; its relative brevity (just 17 minutes) and lighter tone seem perhaps to suggest a lack of ambition. But in a lively and committed performance, such as this one from Peter Donohoe, it offers an interesting snapshot in the young composer’s development towards the First Symphony and Belshazzar’s Feast. By the time Walton came to write the Variations on a Theme by Hindemith, he was an experienced master of the orchestra in his sixties, and this affectionate tribute to a colleague with whom he had much in common is one of his best postwar works. The two men had been friends since Hindemith gave the first performance of Walton’s Viola Concerto in 1929; the theme for the Variations comes from the slow movement of Hindemith’s own Cello Concerto of 1940. This is one of his loveliest melodies, and Walton’s treatment – while lacking the depth of, say, Elgar or Britten’s sets of orchestral variations – is both brilliant and affectionate. Again the performance is alert to the piece’s possibilities, and Daniel also offers two of Walton’s stirring patriotic miniatures. Stephen Maddock

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