It was only a matter of time before Jamie Walton recorded the Cello Concerto by his namesake, Sir William. To do so earlier might have smacked of opportunism, but he is already known as a musician of probing artistry through concertos as diverse as the Elgar, Myaskovsky, Britten and Shostakovich’s Second (all recorded for Signum), not to mention a range of chamber works.
This new coupling of the Walton with the First Concerto by Shostakovich is a gripping successor to those earlier discs, his rich, malleable tone and mature sense of style deployed with the discerning interpretative personality that places him in the front rank of today’s cellists.
One other factor that marks out the performance of the Walton concerto is the decision to replace the familiar ending with the revision that Walton conceived almost two decades after the 1957 premiere. The great Russian-born American cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, who had commissioned the work and had given the first performance in Boston, apparently hankered after a conclusion that was 'less melancholy'.
In the bars that Walton eventually substituted, he certainly did not compromise the reflective mood of the final part of the concerto, and, if anything, they emanate a more poignant sense of tragedy. However, Piatigorsky approved, but died before he could play the new coda. This is its first appearance on disc and anyone preferring the original ending, or wishing to compare the two, can switch to track 8, where the whole of the finale as Walton first wrote it is included as a bonus.
With the Philharmonia alert both to the brio and to the underlying pensive traits of the concerto, Jamie Walton has an ideal partner, echoed in a performance of the Shostakovich that is lithe, pungent and, just as it should be, profoundly disquieting.