In one way I can't disagree too much with some of the individual points made by Bob Stevenson when he reviewed (earlier this week) the Naxos disc of Bruno Walter's Piano Quintet and Violin Sonata. However I come to a quite different conclusion from Bob. His review comes down to a kind of 'interesting but not sufficient to stop you in your tracks, and maybe Walter should have stuck with conducting'.
I can't agree with that general conclusion (if I've summed things up correctly). The Violin Sonata struck me as an especially difficult work for performers, but I think the two performers here meet the challenge admirably and show the work to be, not a great one, but a kind of first class second rate work. Perhaps in the end it doesn't quite deliver what the first two movements promise? But I'm immensely glad to have had the opportunity to hear the work: I know I'm going to go back to it several times.
However the Piano Quintet I think is a veritable gem. Maybe I've just got a soft spot for Piano Quintets, but for me Walter's Quintet is a triumphant masterpiece and certainly up there with some of the 20th century great Piano Quintets. I'm not at all qualified to offer authoritative judgments but the work is surely wonderfully worked out and in this performance sweeps to a conclusion that fair knocks you out. In that respect it is rather like the Medtner Piano Quintet: an 'ordinary' performance of that can leave you indifferent. But a really good performance (and I'm thinking of the Hamish Milne and Pro Arte Piano Quartet recording) can be a wonderfully rewarding and quite tremendous thing. In this case I think Walter's Quintet gets a top notch performance on the Naxos disc, and is comparable in its effect on this listener to the Medtner Quintet.
I hope Bob's rather 'also ran' review doesn't stop people investigating the disc. If it is commercially successful then, fingers crossed, Naxos might give us the Walter String Quartet and the Piano Trio. As far as I know those works haven't been recorded, and equally good performances of these two works would constitute a real treat.
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