I was fortunate enough to get a pre-release of this CD in March 2003. It has not been out of the CD player since. There are few recordings available of these two pieces, probably because of the difficulties for both soloist and orchestra.
I have heard Mr Vengerov play the Britten concerto live now on several occasions and it invariably moves me to tears. It must be difficult to conjure the same emotional intensity in a recording studio, without the feedback and participation of an audience, but this comes very, very close to recreating those very special occasions when I was there. The constant circling around the major / minor conflict at the very end is soul stirring stuff. This is in my opinion one of the best (if not THE best) violin concertos ever written and to hear it played by by one of the best (and again I will say, if not THE best) violinists of our time is a special gift.
Now the Walton Viola concerto. If the Britten was magnificent what is this? Aided I guess by the purest and most lucious of tones from the Archinto Strad (on loan from the RAM for the occasion), this is the pinnacle (so far) of Mr Vengerov's career. I was left speechless and wordless. Every note seemingly treated with such care and attention, you will notice things you never heard before in this concerto however well you know it. Such a shame that without a viola of his own (yet!)he will not be performing it live at the moment (though when he does I plan to be there!). Such a wonderful piece and played to absolute perfection.
I must comment on the LSO's superb performances also, in both concerti. In all the live performances I have heard some come close but none actually reach the standard of playing and interpretation we have here. Each member taking their part so well in the solo passages and the ensemble so perfect too. They are to be congratulated.
Buy this CD....and if you get chance to experience it live do that too, you will never forget the experience.