ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
William Walton - Symphony No. 1 WILLIAM WALTON - SYMPHONY NO. 1 - PARTITA - PAUL DANIEL (Conductor) - ENGLISH NORTHERN PHILHARMONIA - NAXOS 8.553180

Considered a momentus achievement in music, this is definitely one of the best symphonies to come out of England during the first half of the 20th century.

The first movement in particular is written on a grand scale, propulsed ever forward by a great sense of momentum and ever increasing tension, with moments of dark melancholy and contemplation. Throughout the whole movement, conflicts arise between different sections of the orchestra, adding to the mounting tension and built up energy, that finally gets released at the very end in an amazing fashion. The second movement, Presto con malizia (malicious) is a tour de force in devilish rhythms and off-beat accents all put together with great craftmanship. Some of the main ideas from the opening movement are re-introduced in the third, slow movement, but are now given a darker, more emotional treatment, and the movement ends in hushed resignation. The final movement opens with a ceremonial sounding fanfare, and the central section of the movement is a fugue written on a grand scale with, again, plenty of momentum and energy. The fanfare returns to finish the symphony in an impressive display of resolute determination.

This 1994 recording under Paul Daniel is a clear front runner for this symphony, and was a Gramophone Editor's Choice the year it was released.

Jean-Yves Duperron