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Hyperion Records

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Sir William Turner Walton (1948) by Michael Ayrton (1921-1975)
© Estate of Michael Ayrton / National Portrait Gallery, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67794
Recording details: November 2010
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: July 2011
Total duration: 5 minutes 21 seconds

'The BIS version is highly recommendable … but the new issue regularly outshines it in bite and romantic passion. This version of the iconic First Symphony even rivals the version that Andre Previn and the LSO recorded for RCA in 1966, a classic account that has comfortably stood the test of time … the whole disc is a credit not only to the conductor but also to the quality of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, which can stand comparison with any rival' (Gramophone)

'The dazzling brilliance and menacing darkness in Walton’s First Symphony are astutely caught here by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins … the dazzling brilliance and menacing darkness in Walton’s First Symphony are astutely caught here by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Not for a while have I heard a new Walton First to put alongside the top entries … but this muscular performance, built around a dark string presence, stentorian brass, and bright woodwinds, qualifies … [but] the real wonder of this disc is the Second … if you are looking for a disc with both Walton symphonies, Brabbins is the clear choice over Charles MacKerras and Owain Arwel Hughes' (American Record Guide)

'During the last 40-50 years, rival versions of Walton's music have come and gone, but in the case of his symphonies, it is Previn and Szell who have seemingly remained unassailable—until now, for this new Martyn Brabbins disc is fully the equal of its distunguished predecessors and in certain details is superior to either … it is, quite simply, the sound of the orchestra in your living room—with nothing in between. For this, engineer Simon Eadon deserves the highest praise and, with Andrew Keener as producer, the result is a disc of incomparible sonic and musical quality' (International Record Review)

'Brabbins's account is a reminder that for all its derivative elements and bombast, Walton One is a powerful musical statement in its own right … the three-movement Second Symphony belongs to a very different emotional world, though flashes of the First's irascibility occasionally surface. Brabbins extracts all of the necessary orchestral glitter and swagger from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra … as a neat pairing of Walton's two symphonies on a single disc, this really can't be bettered' (The Guardian)

'Both of William Walton's symphonies are superbly orchestrated testaments to the ardour, romance and bitterness in the composer’s soul … Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish are thrilling champions' (The Times)

'Anyone tempted by both symphonies on a single disc need not hesitate' (The Sunday Times)

'Brabbins leaves us in no doubt about his expert touch in this repertoire. He gets lean, clean results from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, maintaining tension and momentum in a way that showcases the music’s virtuosic dynamism … Brabbins’ sheer conviction should win them new admirers' (Financial Times)

1926; first performed at the Aeolian Hall on 24 November 1926, Guy Warrack (or Walton) conducting; dedicated to Stephen Tennant

Siesta  [5'21]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
A characteristic of Walton’s music is the blend of romanticism and bitterness. The First Symphony is the example par excellence of this trait but one can detect it in smaller works. Another characteristic is the love of Italy which persisted from his first visit in 1920. One cannot always be sure whether the melancholy is emotional or the effect of Italian sunshine. These remarks apply to the five-minute orchestral piece Siesta, composed in 1926 for the chamber orchestral concerts given in London at the Aeolian Hall under the direction of Guy Warrack and first performed there on 24 November that year. The Times critic and Warrack both said it was conducted by Walton, but the composer maintained it was Warrack who conducted the premiere.

An oboe plays an Italian street song evocative of the Siena night scene which Walton saw and described after he and his publisher, Hubert Foss, escaped from a reception: ‘Up one little street, we stopped on hearing music. We were at the top of the steps to a lower level and at the bottom was a tiny open space lit by one lamp. Four people were playing tangos on mandolins and whistling the tune with a flexatone to help, and one or two couples were dancing. It was such a beautiful sight, so simple and romantic and peasant-like and such a change from the idiotic reception.’ That scene is captured by the delicate orchestration. Some years later, in 1961, Walton heard a recording and admitted he had forgotten the work—‘charming’ was his verdict. He had dedicated it to his friend Stephen Tennant, the ‘original’ of Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

from notes by Michael Kennedy © 2011

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