As a musician, as a man of ideals, and as a true world citizen, Yehudi Menuhin made an extraordinary mark on his era. The Menuhin Century commemorates the 100th anniversary of his birth on 22 April 1916.
Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, his last notable work, is a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. Elgar composed it in the aftermath of the First World War, by which time his music had gone out of fashion with the concert-going public.
The Violin Concerto of William Walton was written in 1938–39 and reorchestrated in 1943. The concerto, about a half-hour in length, is scored for violin solo and standard orchestra (the revision pared down the percussion section from the original).
Ida Haendel’s sinewy and athletic reading of the often under-rated Britten combines toughness with a cumulative dramatic impetus which is hard to resist. Berglund and the Bournemouth players respond with a terse and argumentative vigour, suitably balanced between resignation and defiant rhetoric, especially in the closing Passacaglia. The Walton Concerto, also dating from 1938-9, is played with an apposite blend of inscrutable panache, as in the irrepressibly brilliant central movement, and elsewhere, a sensuous, if occasionally over-indulgent languor. Rare lapses in the finale can be safely overlooked, in a performance of eloquence and undisputed stature.
For a single-package introduction to the music of William Walton, it would be hard to do better than this two-disc set from EMI. Not only is the selection impeccable (including the First Symphony, Belshazzar's Feast, the violin and viola concertos, plus the Partita, for orchestra), but the performances, with the composer conducting, are, for all intents and purposes, definitive.
If the violin is a star, then so, also, must the surround sound superaudio master on this recorded performance get star status. The engineers have done a beautiful job, and the home disc carries their full-frequency, warm, top-notch sound right into your home listening room. Bravo. Not only is the Strad caught well, so it the band (full, detailed), plus room touches to reinforce the tonal body (especially nice in Sibelius' low strings, for example).