Déjà Review: this review was first published in November 1999 and the recording is still available. Ian Lace passed away in 2021.

Sir William Walton (1902-1983)
Violin Concerto
Cello Concerto
Dong-Suk Kang (violin)
Tim Hugh (cello)
English Northern Sinfonia/Paul Daniel
Naxos 8.554325 [60]

Naxos’s Walton series goes from strength to strength proving, once more, that you do not need star names and orchestras to deliver top-ranking performances. While I would hesitate to say these performances seriously threaten the top recommendations of these works, they definitely sit very comfortably with them.

Paul Daniel is proving himself a powerful and insightful Walton interpreter. His accompaniments are often revelatory; listen, for instance to the ghostly woodwinds parading beneath the musings of the soloist towards the end of the opening Andante tranquillo of the Violin Concerto. One notices so many small but telling little subtleties like swift, sudden brass colourings in the scherzo of the Violin Concerto. Unusually in this movement, Daniel’s tempi and mouldings made me aware of a seemingly underlying dramatic narrative as though I was witnessing some commedia dell’ arte production. The scherzos of both concertos are quite brilliant realisations and have great vitality. In Daniel’s hands, Walton’s Cello Concerto’s opening Moderato is very poetic with the strings singing their lovely melody with infinite tenderness. (I looked at my notes after listening to this album and noticed I had repeated the phrase ‘singing’ many times – the lyricism of these works is lovingly stated). Daniel delivers a poised and controlled, well-integrated performance of the Cello Concerto and the partnership between cello and orchestra is particularly close and mutually sustaining.

Both soloists shine. Dong-Suk Kang goes for the risky faster tempi, very much recalling Heifetz. He confidently succeeds delivering a bravura performance but his lyrical expressiveness is just as impressive, soaring, sweetly singing high over the brilliant orchestral chatterings below. Tim Hugh brings much insight into his interpretation and he probes more deeply, than most, to the heart of the Concerto. The tempo he favours is a shade relaxed but even though this allows his introspections, he does not dawdle and he does not hesitate to dramatically exploit the scores heavier accents. In the central Allegro appassionato, you feel his hesitancy, his suffering and his reluctance to be swept away by the orchestra’s brilliantly coloured flights of fancy.

Just one small grouse. The recording is excellent, except for balance – once more I am complaining (but mildly this time) of a seemingly hole in the middle effect more noticeable in the Violin Concerto where the strings seem to be oddly undernourished.

The unusual worthwhile coupling is worth pointing out – so many times the Violin Concerto is coupled with the Viola Concerto – often played by the same soloist.

Unhesitatingly recommended.

Ian Lace

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