First on the Somm label and for several years now on Signum, Jamie Walton has been producing indispensable discs ranging through the familiar and not so familiar cello repertoire. He has explored with perceptive, persuasive interpretative sensibility such diverse realms as the two concertos by Saint-Saëns, the two by Shostakovich and the concerto by his half-namesake William Walton, together with chamber music by Prokofiev, Chopin, Rachmaninov and Grieg. Conviction drew him to the Cello Sonata (SIGCD274) and Cello Symphony (SIGCD137) by Benjamin Britten long before they became more of a centenary obligation this year.
At the centre of this new album is an exquisite little extra in the shape of Dvořák's Silent Woods, the composer's own arrangement of one of his piano duet pieces that he made for the cellist Hanuš Wihan, whose playing was in Dvořák's mind when he wrote the Cello Concerto in the 1890s. Walton's interpretation of Silent Woods is sublime, its songful rapture sustained in a seamless stream of subtly inflected melody, with a gentle uplift to the spirits in the central, more animated section. The two concertos on either side of this lovely miniature, ably supported by the Philharmonia, confirm Walton as an artist with secure intuition in terms of style and with a manner of performing that speaks with natural fluency, eloquence and strength of purpose.
The contrasting elements of fragility and resolve in the Schumann concerto are held in fine balance, and in the Dvořák there is the sense that Walton, while consistently true to the composer's own voice, has a fresh, personal and thoroughly captivating way of expressing it.