ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Walton - Belshazzar's Feast

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WILLIAM WALTON - Belshazzar's Feast - Symphony No. 1 - Sir Colin Davis (Conductor) - Peter Coleman-Wright (Baritone) - London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus - 822231168126 - Released: May 2011 - LSO Live LSO0681

In the late 1920s, William Walton was commissioned to write a small-scale choral work. What emerged two years later out of his hard work and determination, was what is now considered one of the best dramatic oratorios of the 20th century. Concise, trenchant, powerful, and loaded with brilliant orchestral writing along with choral settings that establish the whole work's momentum and epic drama. The nervous energy and sense of occasion captured during this 'live' recording, all the more emphasizes the burning energy at the core of this impressive piece of music. Baritone Peter Coleman-Wright and the London Symphony Chorus, follow the driving force of conductor Sir Colin Davis and deliver a life affirming and powerful account. The segment to "Praise ye the God of Gold!" with its combination of wood blocks, saxophone, brass choirs, percussion and full choir is one of those hair raising, goosebump moments. The immediacy of the live recording definitely adds to the level of excitement, particularly during the powerful final movement, that clearly points ahead to the Walton of the First Symphony.

That Symphony No. 1 in B flat minor is actually included as an added bonus on this CD. Two of Walton's masterpieces on one disc. Bonus! The recording of the symphony was made about three years earlier, and had already been released on LSO Live as a stand alone recording, but now the label has combined the two to make for a release that is difficult to turn down. I myself consider this symphony to be one of the best symphonic works of the 20th century, with the opening movement in particular standing as one of the most powerful musical statements ever written. Relentless energy, momentum, cross rhythms and opulent themes build the music to epic proportions until Walton brings everything to a breathtaking resolution in the end. And again the heart beat driven energy within this live recording comes to the surface to provide that extra level of occasion.

This is one of those rare releases where, during the 80'17" of music included on this CD, not a minute goes by that doesn't grab your attention.

Jean-Yves Duperron - May 2011