This is without a doubt the finest single disc coupling of the two Walton Symphonies currently available. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra knows the music well, having made excellent recordings of it already with Andrew Litton, but Kirill Karabits is, if anything, even more exciting. There is competition for this pairing, especially from Mackerras on (formerly) EMI, but he’s let down by diffuse engineering in the First Symphony. Karabits’ production values are all of a piece.
In the First Symphony, he sustains a level of intensity virtually unheard since Previn’s benchmark RCA recording with the LSO from the 1960s. The first movement moves inexorably in a single, magnificent arch of coiled fury. Karabits attacks the scherzo fearlessly, and keeps the slow movement flowing urgently. Best of all, though, is this finale (sound clip). It has so much tension and energy that for once it comes across as the logical conclusion to all that has come before. The way the orchestra tears into the central fugue is truly something to behold.
In the much-maligned Second Symphony, Karabits really does make it sound like the work of the same composer as the First. So often the opening movement floats by dreamily, almost lazily, but here an unusual rhythmic acuity reveals the muscle beneath the voluptuous textures. This finale is similarly trenchant, the initial variations succeeding one another with just the fluency that Walton’s score repeatedly demands. Is this the best version since Szell’s? Probably–certainly it’s a particularly satisfying one. First rate sonics uncover plenty of often-ignored detail, balancing the busy string writing in the First Symphony’s opening movement with particular care. Just great! - ClassicsToday.com