In the South (Alassio) – Concert Overture, Op.50
Kensington Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 10 March, 2012
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London
Although it was very good news to have William Walton’s Second Symphony (1960) performed, Carslake’s interpretation of it left much to be desired, although the KSO played this super-virtuoso score with aplomb. Much of the Elgar had suggested that Carslake was not concerned about or even preferred the fierce sound being generated in this vibrant acoustic (although rarely did we get anywhere near a true pianissimo), but that does not excuse the vulgarly ear-splitting climax to Walton’s second movement, brass-fuelled and with over-the-top cymbals. Otherwise, Carslake took a hasty view of the first movement, losing its yearning lines and rhythmic shape (rhythm is so important to Walton’s music). Its climax aside, the slow movement was too restless. The finale’s passacaglia-based variations were rather sectionalised and exaggerated, if not without interest, although final majesty was turned into the pomp of a (third) coronation march – and sounded false – with the exhilarating coda only reaching an inert quarter-speed. Concert performances of Walton 2 are sadly rare but recordings by Szell, Previn, Thomson, Brabbins and Mackerras all confirm a masterpiece.
The Janáček was altogether better if not without some balance problems and phrasal literalness. But the five movements were generally well-paced and confidently played, the extra brass swelling the uplifting jubilation of the ending.