The works on this album come from the later part of William Walton's career, in the 1950s and 1960s. At the time, with modernist absolutism in full swing, they were negatively reviewed, but now, with a neo-Romantic language mixed with hints of jazz, at least in the Symphony No. 2, they sound pretty prescient and worthy of revival. They get strong performances here. Rarest of all are the Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten, composed in 1969, and an intriguing example of a tribute by an older composer to a younger one. The work is a short passacaglia-like treatment of the substitute Impromptu movement theme of Britten's Piano Concerto, putting it through changes that transform it from Britten into Walton. The Cello Concerto, the only one of the three works that fits the stereotype of Walton's later work as relaxed and autumnal, receives a warm and engaging performance from Emerson Quartet cellist Paul Watkins. The jazz elements in the Symphony No. 2 are actually deemphasized by conductor Edward Gardner, leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra, but his rather dry blocks of sound also work well and bring out the many small touches of orchestration in this work. An attractive release that's well worth the time of Walton fans and those of British music in general.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten|
|Concerto for Cello and Orchestra|
|Symphony No. 2|
2. Lento assai - Poco più mosso - Poco meno - Pochissim più mosso - Poco agitato - A tempo 1 (ma con un po' più movimento)