Top positive review
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A fine recording of both the symphony and the concerto to lead the current modern field in this repertoire
on 8 January 2015
This is the first really serious challenger to the famous, and many would say 'definitive' reading. by Previn and the LSO from as long ago as 1966. There have been several recording of the symphony since then but none have matched its drive and brilliance with both orchestra and conductor on top form. The symphony itself was ideally suited to the jazz-experienced and flamboyant side to Previn's personality.
Gardner, on this 2013 recording, has the apparent great advantages of the outstandingly natural Chandos recording which is also offered in an SACD option for those with surround sound facility, plus and orchestra that can come close to matching Previn's LSO. Gardner also shows clear empathy with the Walton idiom.
The two movements where Gardner draws level with Previn's interpretation and delivery are the last two and especially the final movement which carries great conviction. The first two movements, while being more than a match for most of the previous competition, still fall short of the sheer energy and no-compromise drive of Previn. This is not to under-rate the considerable achievement of Gardner nor the BBC orchestra in those two movements. It is just simply that they, like everyone else before, is ranged against a team that delivered a superhuman effort.
Nevertheless there are problems in obtaining the Previn disc at present with the original non-remastered version being the one most readily available. However there is a Japanese remastered 24 bit version from original sources available from Japan on the Japanese RCA label. That is one of the most stunning remastered successes that I have yet heard and it comes with a superb recording of the Viola concerto played by Yuri Bashmet which is arguably by far the best version yet recorded of that concerto. That would still lead the symphony, and also the viola concerto, field if it can be obtained.
As regards the violin concerto, Tasmin Little has already recorded the concerto about 20 years previously for Decca. Comparisons clearly show that, although the timings in the first recording are marginally quicker in all three movements, Tasmin here delivers a performance which has markedly more light and shade, more of the quick-silver so apparent in the famous Kyung Wha Chung account with Previn and generally she has been able to bring more relaxation and fun to her account than before without at any point losing the sharp edge so vital to the work. The new recording is also far more transparent with the soloist being more integrated within the texture allowing more important orchestral detail to register. The accompaniment throughout is superb.
This is a wonderfully satisfying disc in total containing nearly the best reading yet of the symphony and one of the very best available versions of the concerto. The recording, especially in full surround sound*, (see comments below)* is very natural and adds considerably to the disc's final success.
If one discounts the Previn version of the symphony, this could arguably lead both the current symphony and concerto fields. However, there really is the remastered Japanese RCA disc still available. That offers demonstration stereo sound and demonstration performances of both the symphony and the viola concerto. It is vastly superior to the non-remastered version otherwise available. There is really only one solution for the committed collector and that is to get both!
………….. otherwise, this disc is a winner on its own behalf.