The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Martyn Brabbins gives invigorating and authoritative performances of William Walton’s masterful symphonies. The musicians balance stunning control with breathtaking energy and character.
Following the resounding success of Belshazzar’s Feast, Walton spent three years perfecting his dramatic first symphony. The immensely virtuosic work displays an astounding range of colours and emotional volatility, reflecting the turbulence of Walton’s private life. Despite its fraught gestation—the first performance in 1934 by the London Symphony Orchestra was missing the finale—this work met with an ecstatic critical reception and has remained popular ever since.
The second symphony, premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1960, is more concise and refined. Somewhat out of kilter with the austerity of its time, this masterpiece was slow to emerge from the shadow of its predecessor. Also included is the intimate orchestral work Siesta, from 1926.
What is so good about the new Hyperion performances is the control of tension...The whole disc is a credit not only to the conductor but also to the quality of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra which can stand comparison with any rival, not least in the quality of the woodwind solos. Gramophone
unlike on many other recordings, both conductor and orchestra know one another's work and working methods well, and it shows here in many points of detail...As for the performances, it is impossible to imagine anything better than this, by turns so very exciting and very moving. Brabbins's tempos are absolutely spot-on...I have no doubt that this disc enshrines great conducting of a great orchestra in great music; the result is a record in a thousand. Int. Record Review
Brabbins brings a focused, tautly unified concept to each symphony, with great empathy shining out of the Lento of the Second. Classic fm ****
Brabbins never lets [the First] off the tight rein it requires, so that it sounds all the more powerful as a result: the ferocious climaxes are built and sustained with control, while the Andante con malinconia convincingly resists its usual tendency to sprawl. The playing - featuring what must be the finest trumpet section in these islands - is top-flight. BBC ****