Best Recordings of Walton, Elgar Concertos

March 17, 2004 at 07:04 AM · I have never heard either of these concertos and I was wondering what recordings you all would recommend. Thanks

Replies (48)

March 17, 2004 at 08:09 AM · Heifetz...at least for the Walton!

March 17, 2004 at 08:54 AM · Greetings,

for the Elgar the two top recordings are probably:

Menuhin (at 16)

Heifetz.

But Hugh Bean has made a masterful and very -English_- version and Sammons is also very worth studying. I think Kennedy"s recording is said to be excellent although I have never heard it.

Again Heifetz for the Walton but also Ida Haendel is very closely associated with the work and I actually prefer her reading of it for some reason.

Cheers,

Buri

March 17, 2004 at 09:36 AM · I find the Menuhin Elgar far to slow... it's as if he hadn't practiced for a week and his hands went all stiff... but his tone is so rich and beautiful.

March 17, 2004 at 05:01 PM · thanks. BTW, it says on Hilary Hahn's website that her next album will have the Elgar concerto on it, as well the Lark Ascending. That's good English music.

March 17, 2004 at 05:19 PM · Menuhin for the Elgar, first recording. Heifetz or Francescatti for the Walton. Also Perlman recorded the Elgar.

March 17, 2004 at 07:08 PM · Heifetz has superb recordings of both the Walton and the Elgar (I have at least two Heifetz versions of the Walton and possibly two of the Elgar).

As part of his centenary birthday celebrations, in 2001 NAXOS put out a CD with Heifetz on both of these concertos. If you're lucky you can get it as a single CD, though it's often sold as part of a boxed set of seven.

March 18, 2004 at 02:03 AM · I have Yehudi Menuhin's recording of the Elgar concerto, but I haven't listened to it much so I don't know how great it is. The Bruch Concerto no. 1 is also on the CD, so that's why I got it.

March 18, 2004 at 02:27 AM · In case anyone's wondering, I have checked amazon and you can get the Walton/Elgar Heifetz disc that David mentioned for less than 7 bucks, and ditto for the Bruch/Elgar played by Menuhin. Definitely sounds worthwhile.

March 18, 2004 at 04:45 AM · Heifetz for both. They're on the same cd too, which will make things easier for you. Noone plays the Elgar better than Heifetz. It's a very meaty piece and his rendition has a wonderful scope and architecture to it. Someone told me this cd may not be in print anymore but surely you can find it on the web somewhere for sale.

March 18, 2004 at 09:31 AM · Greetings,

Kazuyuki is spot on re the Elgar. I often wonder why people crtitcize Heifetz for somehow 'not being so musical' when the guy found some extraordinary sense of proportion in this particluar work, which can be turned into a travesty if the big picture gets lost.

I have told the story before, but my first teahcer at college was taught by Sammons who was the first champion of the work (or was that Kreisler?). Sammons showed him a note he had received from Heifetz saying that he , heifetz had been greatly helped in coming to understand the work through Sammons" recording.

Cheers,

Buri

March 18, 2004 at 04:58 PM · Hey all! I love the Elgar and Walton concerti--especially the Walton. Heifetz' prominent recordings of both are good, but, to me, lack the depth of interpretation I see needed in these pieces (moreso in the Walton--and yes I know it was commissioned for Heifetz). I also agree Menuhin's Elgar is too slow. The best overall recordings I have heard of these pieces are by Nigel Kennedy. I will excerpt my recommendations from a previous discussion about these pieces:

"(1) William Walton: Violin and Viola Concertos (Kennedy w/Royal Philharmonic under Andre Previn). For people who have not been exposed to the beauty that is the Walton concerto (and for the seasoned professionals who prefer Heifetz's classic Walton and Primrose's Viola), here is a disc worth owning. Kennedy proves that the viola is an instrument to reckon with and his daring nature and sonority outshines even the (mildy) virtuosic writings of Walton for the viola. The violin concerto on this disc is also a masterpiece (This recording is one of Gramophone's "100 Great Recordings"!) The believable placement of Kennedy with the orchestra creates a well-balanced, tight, amazing performance (It blows the lid off of the uninspired Bell recording and the okay Dong-Suk Kang rendition).

(2) Sir Edward Elgar: Violin Concerto in b-minor, Op. 61, either the 1991 Kennedy, London Philharmonic under Handley one, or the 1998 Kennedy, City of Birmingham Symphony under Simon Rattle. These recordings are so great, that critics compare them against each other (much less to other "competitors"). I have owned the Elgar concerto score for some time, and have always been familiar with the piece. But, as per the Gramophone Guide again, I purchased the 1998 Kennedy recording. It blew my socks off! Let me tell you, since I purchased that CD this year, I have listened to it almost everyday. His performance is so amazing that is addictive! It is like he is singing with his interpretation. It is a bit fast, which may pose a problem for those who want a stab at the piece :), but a breathtaking performance.

These are a couple of discs that everyone should own to get a sense of why people like me believe that Kennedy can be considered a "serious musician." I always look for those special recordings that I think, years later, when CDs become obsolete, we will still remember. These are part of the select few. Of course, they are not perfect, and everyone may not like them, but try these out and reconsider your take on Kennedy as a violinist (i.e. drop the commercial packaging, the overplayed salon pieces, and the crossover-to-make-money wizardry!).

One last note, Hilary Hahn (an artist which I have a myriad of problems with) should be recording the Elgar this year. The concerto is a true test of the violin, a piece that Pinchas Zuckerman called THE most difficult violin concerto, not just because of its technical difficulty, but because of the emotions it conveys. This will be a proving ground for Hilary Hahn. As one of the most serious violin pieces out there, I am awaiting to see if she will be mature enough to make a dent on Kennedy's legendary recordings. (all of the above recordings can be purchased on amazon.com) "

March 18, 2004 at 04:31 PM · And Austin, I did not know that her disc will also have the Lark Ascending. It seems like she is vying for direct competition now with Kennedy's legendary Elgar recording that has also the Lark on it. His Lark Ascending on the Elgar disc is SO beautiful, taken at one of the slowest speeds in the piece's recorded history--but to amazing results. I don't own much Hahn, but I am earnestly waiting to hear her take on the Elgar, and now, in addition, the Lark Ascending.

March 18, 2004 at 06:51 PM · There are terrific recordings of both pieces by Kyung-Wha Chung; I think they are mostly out of print but you may be able to get them from Tower UK. In my experience, NO recording is "the only one you'll ever need," and these are definitely substantial contributions to any violin-lover's library.

March 18, 2004 at 07:18 PM · I'm with Steve on the Elgar -Hugh Bean and his teacher Sammons - (but then I'm biassed). Unfortuately Hugh's recording (EMI????) is unavailable at the present time which is a shame though that might change given his recent and sudden death. But just to stray from the subject momentarily, do try his Lark Ascending - stunning - no other recording "does it" for me..........) The Sammons Elgar recording is available though on Naxos and though it was made in 1929 (or thereabouts it doesn't sound dated in the way that some recordings even of the 50s/60s can. Not Sammons' playing anyway - and who else plays the finale that fast??????? The only thing that occasionaly makes you realise that the recording is old, are some (but by no means all) of the orchestral tuttis. Sammons had a fairly close relationship with Elgar in terms of that work so as STeve says, it's worth more than a listen ........and is on one of the cheaper labels so nothing lost more than a few ££ and a little time......... Happy Listening.....

March 18, 2004 at 07:27 PM · Heifetz on both the Elgar and the Walton.

If you think Heifetz is 'too fast' on the Elgar, my favorite 'slower' version is by Zukerman/Slatkin.

March 19, 2004 at 03:03 PM · Hi everybody,i have a video with kyung-Wha-Chung playing the Walton wich is truly stunning.For a studio Audio recording i would go for Francescatti before Heifetz.Francescatti just adds more big fat sound to this romantic piece than heifetz does.I have a live recording with Francescatti that is even more stunning both tecnically and sound-wise and is truly amazing.AAron Rosand is also very good and should be checked out.

for the Elgar i would also try the Igor oistrakh version as an outsider beeing the first russian to record this concerto.I have very often said to myself that it is such a pity that the Great David did not record any of theese two concertos..he played them both in concert,with miracously result,and answering the question why he had not yet recorded them,he just said:-no one has asked me...if he had i am dead sure we would have The definite versions!

cheers, jorgen

March 19, 2004 at 06:28 PM · Jorgen: I like the Francescatti Walton, too. It's the only preformance that rivals Heifetz's technically. But I am curious, where did you get the live version? I've never seen it.

March 19, 2004 at 07:45 PM · I don't understand how anyone could ever put Francescatti in the same league as Heifetz at anything and especially the Walton. I am intrigued to know Jorgen how you came to the finding that Igor Oistrakh was the first Russian to record the Elgar concerto. Heifetz recorded and played the piece for years along with a few other Auer students long before Igor Oistrakh did.

March 20, 2004 at 01:08 AM · Heifetz is great in Walton. It's a really Heifetzy piece and suits his distinctive talents. I also adore Josh Bell's recording of this concerto. Kennedy's Elgar is pretty great on both of his recordings - I think of that as pretty much the definitive recording. I'm not familiar with Heifetz's, though... better go dig it out!

March 20, 2004 at 01:24 PM · I haven't heard Kennedy's recording of Elgar but I heard him play it live once and I thought it was the ugliest performance of it that I ever heard.

March 20, 2004 at 07:33 PM · I love Chung for both. I like her La Capricieuse also.

Marty doesnt like the Walton

lol

March 22, 2004 at 01:51 PM · Dear Military time,Heifetz left Russia at an early age and lived most of his dayes in America(and he was born in Vilnius wich is a Baltic city,not Russian)therefore he is not considered a "Russian" violinist in the same sence that Oistrakh,Kogan etc etc etc,so,in this perspective Igor Oistrakh was the first Russian to record the Elgar.Or maybe should i say Soviet-Russian to make it easier to understand?And about comparing violinists it is really up to what you prefer and different tastes.Now that cant be too hard to understand,can it?

cheers, Jorgen

March 22, 2004 at 02:03 PM · Dear K G, i got the Francescatti live recordings from a very keen Francescatti-fan in New-york and i can tell you that his playing is breathtaking!

jorgen

March 23, 2004 at 11:27 PM · Your email add. doesn't work Steve........ You probably know that........but I thought I'd tell you again. It's v. irritating!!! Means I can't mention any names...... Just reading earlier on this thread your comment about Sammons championing the Elgar. I thought it was written for him........or maybe it was Menuhin. It certainly wasn't for Heifetz - though God knows he must've had loads of things written for him. Walton wrote his concerto for him and I think that's why it's so bloody difficult. Hiefetz had a hand (or three it sounds like) in the writing I think...... Not that I've ever tried playing it. The sound is enough.

Interested in your comments about your first teacher and putting 2&2 together. It is who I thought. I thought he was meant to be a good teacher??? But not for you? Or was it a personality thing....... (I know about those though thankfully not with Hugh or John - hard to clash with them.......)

March 23, 2004 at 11:55 PM · Have you guys ever listened to the Dong-Suk Kang recording of the Elgar on the Naxos label? I think that one's my personal favorite, although I must admit I've never listened to Heifetz's.

P.S. I also think that Menuhin's is too slow.

March 24, 2004 at 05:32 AM · Everyone says "Oh Menuhin! He's so good in the Elgar" so I bought it...and I was slightly dissapointed. I think the fact the Elgar conducted the performance makes people think it must be good. I don't see it as that...Menuhin doesn't play it as well as Heifetz or Sammons.

March 24, 2004 at 09:13 AM · The Elgar Concerto was dedicated to Kreisler who did the premiere in 1910.

The "try-premiere" on a private party was played by W.H Reed (from the LSO).

March 24, 2004 at 09:45 AM · Oh well, Sammons was assoc. with the concerto somehow, I shall have to ask his grandson (namedropper!)- maybe it was Sammons who made the first recording ........... or maybe that was Menuhin......... who incidentially, I don't say "ooooh, he's so good" because I also agree that Sammons (amongst many others), is much better. AS I said earlier, who dares take the finale as fast as he does?

March 24, 2004 at 11:00 AM · Whoa! Menuhin's recording with Boult is too good....haha ye as if

April 27, 2004 at 03:22 AM · I was listening to the young Menuhin's playing of the Elgar...some of the things he does are amazing...like those spiccatos in the 3rd mvt...so yeah...he does play it beautifully.

August 13, 2004 at 05:57 PM · Heifetz is the best for both concertos,

Specially second mov. of Elgar's concerto it's fantastic for me.

I like Menuhin, but I like his recording of Elgar concerto when he is older,it's better then the CD with Bruch concerto and he's 16 or something

August 13, 2004 at 06:34 PM · I agree, Kang's was really good and Menuhin was too slow for me. Hahn is about to release this, lest see if it compares to compares to Chung's recording

August 14, 2004 at 10:28 PM · Menuhin Elgar

Heifetz Walton

August 16, 2004 at 03:48 PM · I think Kennedy's recordings of both are great. Kennedy is one of the greatest musical interpreters of our time. I can't say I don't like a single recording of his.

September 28, 2004 at 09:15 PM · I like Kang in the Elgar too, as I like Heifetz. My favorite, though, is Zukerman's recording with Leonard Slatkin. It's slower - but it sounds right.

September 12, 2005 at 09:23 PM · The Heifetz performances of both concerti have already been recommended. I agree. In fact, there's a CD with both. In the Axelrod book on Heifetz, there is (if I remember corrrectly) a newspaper review of his live performance of the Elgar at about the time he made the recording. It's really interesting and informative to read reviews of these great violinists based on live performances virtually the same day they performed.

Sandy Marcus

September 12, 2005 at 09:30 PM · Yes, there is a Heifetz CD on the Naxos label with both of those recordings on it. It is great. The recordings are from the '40s, so the sound quality isn't as good as what we have today.

But, once you get past that, the recordings are the best.

September 12, 2005 at 10:00 PM · I am a fan of the Menuhin/Elgar. I am amused by those who criticize it as too slow or whatever. Presuambly, that was the way Elgar intended it to sound. If he thought it was too slow, he could have just said, "Yehudi, let's speed it up for the next take." I have not heard Sammons play it but am wondering if people have the same criticism, since Sammons played it under Elgar a number of times. Perhaps Elgar would have thought differently if he had heard Heifetz or someone else play it faster. After all, Rachmaninoff preferred Horowitz's recordings of the Rach 3 to his own. Go figure!

September 13, 2005 at 02:25 AM · heifetz's elgar is incredible. kennedy's walton is also incredible.

September 14, 2005 at 04:07 PM · Kyung Wha Chung has amazing recordings of both concerti. The Walton was recorded with the composer present.

Walton: London Symphony/ Previn, approx. 1973

Elgar: London Phil./ Solti, approx. 1977

I THINK you can still find them on Tower Records' UK store website.

Also Nigel Kennedy has done excellent recordings of both (Elgar twice, IIRC).

Perlman's Elgar is famous but I've never heard it...

Zukerman made a gorgeous rec. of the Elgar in the late 70's (Barenboim/London Phil.) but good luck finding it.

September 17, 2005 at 08:01 PM · Walton himself thought Berl Senofsky was the concerto's best advocate. Their (Walton conducted)live recording is available on Bridge.

September 3, 2008 at 10:41 PM · My fav is young Menuhin, followed by Kennedy/Hanley... I listened to the Sammons version, it was too fast and was musically dry to my years

September 3, 2008 at 10:45 PM · Greetings,

interesting.

My teacher studied with Sammons. He told me that he`s seen a very respectful letter Heifetz wrote Sammons about his Elgar recording saying that he felt sammons had been very helful

in finding his own interpretation of of the work.

Cheers,

Buri

September 4, 2008 at 01:30 AM · I think we are fortunate to live in an era of such wonderful technology that we have our choice of the greatest of violinists of the past 100+ years. I've heard lots of violinists on record play the Elgar and the Walton, and many - I agree - are beautiful.

But as far as the performances I prefer to listen to over and over, it's Heifetz on the Elgar and Francescatti or Heifetz on the Walton. And, yes, Zino Francescatti is in my opinion one of the most underrated great violinists in the history of the instrument.

To the Elgar Concerto, Heifetz does indeed embrace the entire architecture of the piece, and yet each individual note - each moment - is brimming not only with the patented Heifetz elegance and technical brilliance, but with warmth and heart. It is one of the great recorded performances of all time. Critical reviews of his live performance at the time were incredibly effusive in their praise of his performance of this piece. To those of you who don't get it, you're really missing something special.

Sandy

September 4, 2008 at 05:03 AM · Camilla Wicks' recording of the Walton is incredible, brilliant, passionate, absolutely my favorite. Released in 2000 on Simax, with the Oslo Philharmonic (recorded in 1985, I think).

May 22, 2009 at 02:55 PM ·

I'm resurrecting a very old thread, but I have been listening to the Walton again for months on end after not listening it for over a decade. i "grew up" listening to Francescatti's recording, and I still think it's one of my favorites (isn't that always the case with this? you like the first recording you've ever heard, and the others dont compare?) but recently purchased Ehnes' 2006 recording with the Vancouver Symphony, and I think it's absolutely wonderful as well. I'll have to hunt down heifetz's version.

I'll have to dust off the recording of the Elgar I grew up on (I don't recall who it is!... Kennedy?), but I'm listening to Ehnes' Elgar right now... this guy is pretty dang good :)

May 22, 2009 at 05:32 PM ·

My vote for Walton will be firmly placed on Camilla Wicks on Simax label, thanks to Nathaniel Vallois' introduction. I can't imagine I would ever hear a better performance than this in my lifetime.

May 22, 2009 at 09:11 PM ·

Wow. It's 5 years since this discussion thread was started. I still like Heifetz on the Elgar. It is not only (in my opinion) the best recorded performance of that concerto, but one of Heifetz's best. And it should put to rest the stereotyped notion that his playing was "cold." There is nothing "cold" about this performance. And Gil Shaham is right, that first movement is one of the "saddest" (i.e., depressed, melancholic) pieces of music ever written. It is heartbreaking, and yet how wonderful.
Sandy

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