William Walton

Walton conducts Walton

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For a single-package introduction to the music of William Walton, it would be hard to do better than this two-disc set from EMI. Not only is the selection impeccable (including the First Symphony, Belshazzar's Feast, the violin and viola concertos, plus the Partita, for orchestra), but the performances, with the composer conducting, are, for all intents and purposes, definitive. Some of the later conductors to record these pieces were technically more accomplished than Walton, but none, not even the most dedicated, can match the composer's insights and commitment. Here, the First Symphony is endowed with enormous power and energy, Belshazzar's Feast imbued with radiant colors and inexorable drama, the two concertos suffused with marvelous verve and heartbreaking beauty, and the Partita filled with sly wit and deep affection. Yehudi Menuhin is the starry soloist in both concertos, and the Philharmonia Orchestra is the expert ensemble for all the works. Though recorded between 1951 (the symphony) and 1969 (the concertos), the sound here was consistently first-class in its day, and still sounds brilliant in this remastering.

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