Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtakingly perfect lyricism and phrasing in the Walton, 1 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Brustad Violin Concerto 4 / Walton Violin Concerto (Audio CD)
First about the artist, Camilla Wicks. Her musicianship and technical prowess has been one of the great "lost legacies" of the history of the violin, due to her totally understandable but musically tragic disappearance from the musical scene in her thirties to raise five children - bravo to her dedication to her family. She was a meteorically ascendant soloist who studied at first with Persinger from age 10y, following after Menuhin and Ricci, and was spotted by Zino Francescatti. At 15y she came 2nd in the Leventritt Competition playing the Sibelius violin concerto, leading to her Carnegie Hall debut at 18y with NY Phil, again playing the Sibelius in 1946. The composer was greatly impressed and admiring of her interpretation, ranking her with Guila Bustabo, Heifetz, Ginette Neveu, and his beloved Anja Ignatius, as the foremost interpreters of his violin masterpiece (Ida Haendel was also highly commended). Camilla Wicks made a simply outstanding, electrifying performance of the Sibelius in 1952 playing the "Duke of Cambridge" 1725 Stradivari with Sixten Ehrling and the Stockholm RSO, recently remastered by Biddulph and swiftly sold out, but still available and still electrifying (in a different remastering) from EMI Japan. "Camilla Wicks had it all -- a blazing technique, a radiant tone plus a compelling interpretative point of view [...] As this recording shows, at the time Wicks was at the peak of her prodigious abilities: her command, her control, her power, her passion, her clear, shining tone are all gloriously in evidence.." was James Leonard's convincing praise in the All Music Guide.

As you may detect from this lengthy intro, Camilla Wicks has achieved cult status for her few but magnificent recordings, and her intermittent breathtaking live performances after her 14y marriage ended.

The Walton Violin Concerto, recorded with fabulous sound quality in 1985 when she was 57y, has never sounded more lyrical, poignant, and beautifully phrased than in this reflective and triste performance. Wicks moves away from the faster-paced and more mediterranean warm sound sought by predecessor versions by Heifetz, Francescatti, Kyung-Wha Chung. Instead she creates a silvery charisma with a very slightly slower but never lingering pace, giving a far greater pathos without over-sentimentalising. The overall impression is more poignant, très triste, truly moving intensity, and exquisitely phrased. The sound has the perfect seamless silvery slick articulation reminscent of Milstein, but the interpretation is 100% Camilla Wicks. The orchestral support from Simonov and the Oslo Phil is flawless IMO. Furthermore, this is a LIVE performance with almost no intrusive audience noise, and absolute technical perfection from the soloist with unerring accuracy throughout.

The Brustad concerto 4 is vigorous and at times exciting, played with understanding by Camilla Wicks and Blomstedt/ Oslo Phil, recorded in 1968. The integration of the violin and orchestral sound is not as balanced and transparent as the Walton, and the musical merit is less. Nevertheless, enjoyable, but less memorable than Walton's masterpiece.

I most strongly commend this disc. If ever there was a reason to own several performances of the Walton, this is it.
There are many highly commendable versions, six with special merit: Heifetz/Walton, Ehnes, Kennedy/Previn, Kyung-Wha Chung/Previn, and Wicks. The sixth with Akiko Suwanai is stellar (in parts reminiscent of Wicks), coupled with a lovely version of the Sibelius, but costs silly money since the demise of the Philips label. (Ehnes and Heifetz btw are also coupled with iconic versions of the Korngold).

However, once you have heard Camilla Wicks' version, it will imprint on your soul. Unforgettable.
10 Stars.
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