Colin Davis / London Symphony Orchestra

Walton: Belshazzar's Feast; Symphony No. 1

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This release from the London Symphony Orchestra's own LSO Live label has several big things going for it and may make a good choice for those wanting a single disc of William Walton's orchestral music in their libraries or on their hard drives. Start with the remarkable longevity of Colin Davis, who was an octogenarian when the recording of Belshazzar's Feast was made in 2008 and not far shy of one when the Symphony No. 1 was recorded. The Super Audio live sound is top-notch, with the massive percussion batteries of the oratorio coming through. The single-disc release is a screaming bargain, squeezing in both these works at a total running time of 80 minutes and 17 seconds on an 80-minute disc. (No playback problems were experienced.) And most important of all, each work is consistent, technically clean, nicely shaped, and entirely satisfying, with good articulation by the London Symphony Chorus in Belshazzar's Feast (texts are also included in the CD booklet). The Symphony No. 1 has a remarkable sense of presence and momentum in its slow movement, which is definitely a piece to take or leave in a bad performance. All this said, Belshazzar's Feast in its old standard recording by André Previn benefits from a touch of brashness and a hint of jazz that aren't really to be found in this more vanilla reading. But for pure value this release is superior.

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