Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Walton's Viola Concerto: The First Recording

William Walton's first fully mature work, his 1929 Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, was written for the dean of English viola players, Lionel Tertis, who, however, declined to play it at first (the honor for the first performance went to a young Paul Hindemith).  Tertis did eventually take it up, but when in 1937 the time came for Decca to make the first recording, Tertis had retired from playing, so he suggested that Frederick Riddle (1912-1995), the principal violist of the London Symphony, be engaged for the session.  Riddle's interpretation became the composer's favorite.  Perhaps Riddle's background as a chamber music player - he later formed a famous string trio with Jean Pougnet and Anthony Pini that made many fine recordings - accounted for a more intimate presentation of Walton's concerto than virtuosos like Tertis or William Primrose (who also recorded the work with the composer conducting) were able to deliver.

Walton: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
Frederick Riddle with the London Symphony conducted by William Walton
Recorded December 6, 1937
Decca Album No. 8, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 54.91 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 24.74 MB)

This set, incidentally, was one of the few English Decca recordings to be issued by American Decca as part of its domestic album series, before that series was given over largely to popular material.