Strings Fail to Stretch
Is the performance contained here enough to make it stand out from the pack?
Composer: Walton, Barber
Repertoire: Violin Concerto, Two Pieces from Henry V, Violin Concerto, Adagio for Strings
Artists: Thomas Bowes, Malmö Opera Orchestra/Joseph Swensen
Label: Signum Classica SIGCD238
The Music: Beautiful programming, with two marvellous violin concertos both dating from 1939-40, each paired with music for string orchestra by their respective composers. The haunting, unsettling quality that permeates these concertos could reflect the atmosphere of their time, on the outbreak of World War II; nostalgic melodiousness combines in both with energy and determination.
The Performance: There’s more to Malmö than Wallender – the opera orchestra is on good form, and its conductor Swensen is a superb violinist himself so seems a sensible choice to wield the baton in this repertoire (though the ‘touch her soft lips and part’ from Walton’s Henry V is rather too fast). A few caveats, though, about the soloist: his performances, though professional and accomplished, can’t really stand up to the competition from major international soloists. Problems include a tendency to a uniform swoop-and-surge effect in lyrical phrases, a less than pleasing tone and moments of iffy intonation, notably in the last movement of the Walton.
The Verdict: A very good programme, but its performance leaves too much to be desired in a market that already contains plenty of finer recordings of both concertos.
Want More? Canadian violinist James Ehnes has also recorded the Walton and Barber concertos together and throws in the Korngold as well. He is stunning (Onyx, 4016).