Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra follow up their definitive account of the Walton symphonies with another fine disc of Walton. We are offered the Violin Concerto, originally written for Jascha Heifitz, and the rousing Spitfire Prelude and Fugue, based on one of his film scores. Along with that there is Walton’s fine Partita for Orchestra, and one of his most interesting works, Variations on a theme by Hindemith. Walton and Hindemith had a 40 year long relationship, and Hindemith was able to hear Walton’s musical tribute to him before he died in 1963.
Walton was born to a musical family, was a chorister at Christ Church Cathedral at Oxford, and later studied at the university. He left Oxford without a degree, and from 1920 lived with the Sitwell family in London. The three Sitwells siblings, all budding poets, introduced him to many major musical and literary figures of the time, including Delius, Diaghilev, and T.S. Eliot.
During World War II, William Walton primarily composed music for patriotic films, some of that music is featured on this disc, and then Walton composed an opera, and several shorter pieces. He was composing until the end of his life in 1983, and died on an island near Naples, Italy.
This disc is a worthwhile survey of Walton’s music, giving us works from various times in his composing career. I especially enjoyed the Spitfire Prelude and Fugue excerpts, from the film First of the Few.
As I’ve come to expect from the Hyperion label, this is a fine recording and an animated performance from the BBC Scottish Symphony. The strings sound very rich, and the recording is realistic without over accenting instruments. It represents my ideal of how an orchestra should be recorded, and it is particularly nice when the musical program is nicely put together, the musicians are playing at their peak, and the recording is done to the best practices of the day.
Recommended for Walton lovers and those who want to dip their toes into Walton’s music for the first time.