Martyn Brabbins / BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Walton: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

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The two dynamic symphonies of William Walton are relatively under-recorded, and albums that offer them both are comparatively scarce, so this 2011 Hyperion disc is an obvious acquisition for admirers of the composer and fans of modern symphonies. These works are muscular and rugged essays, with dramatic expressions and propulsive passages that carry the music forward with considerable excitement and vitality. Yet there is also poignant music in the slow movements that provides an emotional counter-balance to the energetic sections. While the orchestration is not overly lush, Walton's use of tone colors is apt and always suits the serious tone of these works; in keeping with this sobriety, Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra play with what might seem like a hard edge, with aggressive attacks and a tone that is not especially warm, though the depth of the ensemble's sound is quite rich when called for, and Brabbins elicits a wonderful brass blend that is warm and exciting in the finales. Sandwiched between the First and Second symphonies is a short orchestral character piece, Siesta, which evokes a nocturnal street scene with plaintive melody and delicate orchestration. Hyperion's sound is crisp and clear, though the orchestra's incisive playing and the hall's acoustics contribute to a fairly cool ambience.

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