Kirill Karabits / Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Walton: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

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Following their successful cycle of Prokofiev's symphonies on the Onyx label, Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra perform two works by another great symphonist of the modern era, William Walton. The Symphony No. 1 in B flat minor (1932-35) and the Symphony No. 2 (1959-60) were held in high esteem by British critics and anglophiles around the world, even though they were ignored by partisans of the avant-garde, which dismissed symphonic writing as an artifact of the past. Yet in the second decade of the 21st century, audiences can better appreciate the symphonies of the 20th century, of which Walton's pair may be regarded as fairly representative in form and style. A characteristic seriousness sustains the First, and Walton's muscular counterpoint and rhythmic propulsion resist the peculiar British tendency toward pastoral reveries; indeed, Walton's music is quite aggressive and incisive, and his First is similar to the contemporaneous Symphony No. 4 of Vaughan Williams, which shares some its darker moods. The Second is somewhat less accessible because it flirts with atonality and is more angular and acerbic than the First, expressing an anxiety that was common to post-war works. Karabits has turned in fine interpretations of these symphonies that rival the prized recordings by Vladimir Ashkenazy and André Previn, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra plays with commitment and convincing power. Highly recommended.

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