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The variations were commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society, marking their 150th anniversary in 1963. The work fused a number of strands and formed one of Walton’s finest orchestral scores, but one whose subtleties doubtless led to it being misunderstood when it appeared, the composer’s familiar language in certain quarters now being considered somewhat passé.
The forty-year friendship between Walton and Hindemith culminated in this deeply felt homage from one great composer to another, made more poignant as Hindemith was to die suddenly at the very end of 1963, yet not before he had heard the variations and planned to conduct the work, which is dedicated to him and his wife.
The theme comes from the opening passage, including harmony, of the slow movement of Hindemith’s 1940 cello concerto. The resultant variations form arguably Walton’s most refined masterpiece, its expression not invariably discernible on the surface. The mastery demonstrated throughout is deeply impressive: here is control of structure, of pace, of emotional content, and an artistic maturity of expression without a bar’s exaggeration.
Hindemith’s theme is a note-row (eleven notes, the ‘missing’ twelfth—E flat—is heard in passing). Although nine variations are specified, the work has eleven continuous sections (including finale and coda) after the opening theme, of which the seventh, lento, quotes directly from Hindemith’s opera Mathis der Maler. Walton appears at times to absorb Hindemith’s own distinctive language before reverting to his own—implying an unspoken conversation between friends. Nothing is overdone, each distinctive variation naturally following from what preceded it: a profound tribute indeed to a lifetime colleague and to the Royal Philharmonic Society of London. Not every commissioned work results in a masterpiece, but one was certainly forthcoming on this occasion.
from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 2017
|Walton: Violin Concerto, Partita & Hindemith Variations|
Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra are joined by Anthony Marwood for a radiant account of Walton’s violin concerto. The remainder of this all-Walton album is every bit as thrilling.» More