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WALTON: Viola Concerto with James Ehnes – The Sunday Times, CD of the Week

Sir William Walton (1902 – 1983): Concerto for Viola (1928 – 29, rev. 1936 – 37, 1962), Partita for Orchestra (1957), Sonata for String Orchestra (1971, after String Quartet in A minor, 1945 – 47)

James Ehnes,  viola, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Edward Gardner

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The Sunday Times, CD of the Week, 15 April 2018 “… played by the by the Canadia virtuoso James Ehnes, who eloquently masters the bittersweet wistfulness of the outer movements and the dazzling pyrotechnics we hear here.

The Sonata for String Orchestra, a 1970s transcription of the 1940s String Quartet. The latest Partita reveals Walton’s undimmed powers as an orchestra. Edward Gardner’s BBC Symphony Orchestra forces play it as the showpiece it is, revelling in its unfashionable Italianate lyricism and witty high jinks.” 

CD notes…

In this third volume of Edward Gardner’s Walton series with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, James Ehnes leaves his violin to tackle the taxing soloist role in the Viola Concerto.

In a recent Strad interview, Ehnes confesses: ‘This is a piece I have loved since I was a teenager, so it is wonderful that the opportunity has come my way to record it… With Walton’s Viola Concerto, none of the writing is impossible but a lot of it is close. And in a way that is exactly where you want it to be: on the edge of technical limitations. There’s a tremendous amount of excitement in that.’ This album in surround sound also features two much later works: the 1957 Partita for Orchestra and
the Sonata for String Orchestra, adapted in 1971 from the String Quartet in A minor of 1945 – 47.

There is a striking contrast between the uncomfortable modernism of the up-and-coming young composer’s Viola Concerto and the relaxed brilliance of the mature Partita. But the Sonata shows Walton late in his life re-engaging as an arranger with his earlier manner, and so with the characteristic vein of restless unease that runs
through most of his output.

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