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Walton: Symphony no 1 / Colin Davis, London SO

Album Summary

>Walton, William : Symphony no 1 in B flat minor
Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

"If I were do to this concert proper justice in print I would have to arrange for your newsagent to supply a box of matches with your paper, so you could set fire to the page. It was a scorcher... brilliantly played on a technical level, but also imbued with something even more vital than brilliance - namely heart and soul, personality and daring. Never have I heard Walton's First Symphony sound so urgent, so driven, so much a document of the anxious, ominous 1930s... Davis managed to convey an impression of a world hurtling towards catastrophe yet splintering apart at the same time. The tension in the playing - and, where needed, the brutality - was remarkable. I found myself gripping my programme so hard that my knuckles went white, just like on a rollercoaster." -The Times (UK)

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
When Sir Colin Davis conducted Walton's First Symphony at the Barbican it was greeted by ecstatic reviews - and rightly so. It was as though critics had suddenly rediscovered this iconic work, which so tellingly reflects the mood of uncertainty and tension in the 1930s. The recording bears out that response: the hushed opening seems as though the music is only just emerging into human consciousness. The mystery quickly evaporates as the nagging syncopations of the ostinato figure become more insistent, developing into a powerful climax. The clarity of texture and sharpness of attack add to the impact, with Davis at ease with the jazz element and finding more light and shade than is common. The Scherzo brings big contrasts too; the slow movement sounds as haunting as the opening and then brings warmly lyrical ideas. The extrovert finale again brings clarity in the contrapuntal writing of successive fugatos, leading to a ripe conclusion.

This new recording, the first version on SACD at a low price, finds a welcome place. Yet it is amazing how well the benchmark recording, AndrT Previn's 1966 reading with the LSO (now contained in a two-CD Walton collection - see below), stands up. The sound is fatter, more punchy than on Davis's disc and Previn, early in his conducting career in the UK, is more biting, in the slow movement conveying a chill that exactly suits Walton's sweet-sour inspiration.

This music may have been inspired by a frustrated love affair rather than anything to do with world politics, but it stands as a symbol of its times, and Previn powerfully conveys that. Meanwhile, this new disc earns a very warm welcome.


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Works Details

>Walton, William : Symphony no 1 in B flat minor
  • Conductor: Colin Davis
  • Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra
  • Notes: Barbican, London, England (09/23/2005/12/04/2005)
  • Running Time: 45 min. 19 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1931-1935
  • Studio/Live: Live