Walton: Belshazzar’s Feast; The Wise Virgins; Siesta; Henry V: Passacaglia; Touch Her Soft Lips and Part

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Walton
LABELS: Carlton BBC Radio Classics
WORKS: Belshazzar’s Feast; The Wise Virgins; Siesta; Henry V: Passacaglia; Touch Her Soft Lips and Part
PERFORMER: Stephen Roberts (baritone); BBC Singers, London Philharmonic Choir, BBC SO & Chorus/John Pritchard, English CO/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: 15656 91612 ADD
Pritchard’s 1984 Prom performance of Belshazzar’s Feast reaches out at you from the very first chord and grips until the end. Here is all the excitement and spontaneity of a live performance. However, the cavernous, over-reverberant acoustic of the Albert Hall has a disconcerting effect on the focus of the sound – it’s rather like trying to contain a tiger in a cardboard box. This is a pity because the performance is above average in a competitive market. The BBC Symphony Orchestra plays with great panache and immediacy (the brass and percussion are especially compelling). The combined choirs sing splendidly, with a real sense of occasion, and Stephen Roberts is a forceful soloist, bringing great clarity and character to his role, although he is rather restrained in the ‘writing on the wall’ sequence. My preferred Belshazzar is Walton’s own recording. Mackerras’s eloquent and polished reading of The Wise Virgins, arranged from the music of JS Bach and including the popular ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’, was recorded in the more sympathetic acoustic of the Barbican. Ian Lace

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