Walton's Violin Concerto has never been one of my favorites and this performance of it does nothing to help. Chung and Previn do bring the piece to life like most do not and I enjoy their recording with renewed interest every time I encounter it. But here in Anthony Marwood's capable hands, it is matter-of-fact, all very competent and nothing much more than that.
Things improve a bit in the Partita, largely because this is such an excellent piece, reminiscent of Walton's 2nd Symphony. But Martyn Brabbins can't touch Szell in this repertoire. It's all well played, but it's all just too smooth, bland and lacking energy. It's missing too much of the necessary Waltonian spikiness and tension. Relaxed tempos and the laid-back, distant, rather dry recording don't help any.
The Variations on a Theme by Hindemith respond more positively to Brabbins's mellow approach. It is a lovely piece and the lush strings suit it just fine. But, in the end, that isn't quite enough. And the mellowness goes much too far in the Spitfire Prelude and (especially) Fugue, where the lazy, imprecise violin articulation just doesn't work.
Anyone thinking this is just a great Walton recording (oh I know, the British reviewers are already starting to gush) should get up off the couch and go grab the old Szell CBS recording (of the Partita and Variations) from your dusty CD shelves and give it a listen. You'll immediately hear exactly what's missing on this Hyperion disc. Szell brings a compulsive, propulsive nervous energy to this music which completely alludes Brabbins. And it must be said the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra can't touch the supreme virtuosity of the Cleveland Orchestra in the 1960s. Their precision and fire never cease to amaze; and just listen to the ravishing strings in the Pastorale siciliana (2nd movement of the Partita). Fortunatley, SONY's remastered sound remains excellent and impresses much more than this Hyperion.