Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Walton for the record

'It’s a pretty tough piece - Walton’s orchestra writing is always extremely demanding ...'
That's conductor Kenneth Woods writing about William Walton's Variations on a Theme of Paul Hindemith and full marks to Ken for advocating this surprisingly neglected composer and an even more neglected work of his.

Those words can also be applied to Walton's Belshazzar's Feast which isn't heard nearly as often as it should be. Above and below is the LP sleeve of the original EMI release of André Previns first and best recording. The upper photo shows Walton and Previn, below left the composer is with LSO chorus master Arthur Oldham, right with baritone John Shirley-Quirk.


We are at Snape Maltings tonight for Rachmaninov's Second Symphony played by the Suffolk Youth Orchestra; yes, there is life beyond Simón Bolívar. I last heard Rach 2 in the concert hall in 1979 when Previn gave a blistering performance in the Fairfield Halls, Croydon with the LSO. Below is Previn's first, and again best, recording of the Second Symphony, which together with Belshazzar was produced by Christopher Bishop. Note the words Complete version on the 1973 LP sleeve. EMI's Douglas Pudney had persuaded Previn to perform and record it without the cuts usually imposed to make the 55 minute symphony more "listener friendly". Previn's recording pioneered the principle of 'No selection has been made'.


This post is available via Twitter @overgrownpath. Both my LPs were EMI factory samples from the 1970s. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

4 comments:

Thomas Baker said...

Your post mentions that Previn's EMI recording of the Rachmaninoff 2nd was his first. But I think there was a mid-1960s RCA recording, also with the LSO, that preceded it? Also an outstanding version.

Pliable said...

Thomas, you are right. I should have said that the EMI disc was Previn's first recording of the complete score. His 1966 RCA account cuts ten minutes, so is therefore of little more than academic interest.

Alex said...

I'm a new fan of Walton, having just heard his ballet The Quest. I will give Belshazzar's Feast a listen. And always a pleasure to hear the symphony by Rachmaninoff.

Daniel said...

Although Previn's first recording of the Rachmaninoff Second is cut, I wouldn't say "therefore, [it is] of little more than academic interest." On that basis, so would Rachmaninoff's recording of his 3rd Concerto. And, the cuts were, after all, Rachmaninoff's. Although I agree that the complete version is preferable, Previn's first recording is really excellent, and, in some ways, better. On the whole, each movement seems to have more impetus, moving ahead in a more convincing way (and in a way that's completely independent of the cuts, which I don't think add up to 10 minutes). Rachmaninoff never liked to dawdle and I think the EMI recording at least feels like it does at times. But, that is just my opinion