Elgar & Myaskovsky Cello Concertos


 The cello concertos of Elgar and Myaskovsky written in 1919 and 1944 respectively, engender few similarities these days but make an exciting coupling due not only to the disparate nature of the composers’ lives and situations, but also to the common ground they tread; both composers were in their early sixties when writing their main work for the instrument.

A stunning performance by Jamie Walton, accompanied by the magnificent Philharmonia Orchestra.

Jamie has enjoyed success as a rising international soloist and has given concerts in some of the most prestigious concert halls in the world. He appears regularly at the Wigmore Hall and Symphony Hall, Birmingham and has performed with leading orchestras such as the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra.


What people are saying

 "This is probably the best performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto that I have heard. Walton cannot be beaten. I shall treasure this recording – literally: I shall hoard it against a musically rainy day." Paul Adrian Rooke, The Elgar Society Journal

Jamie Walton 

Philharmonia Orchestra

Alexander Briger, conductor

Release date:4th Feb 2008
Order code:SIGCD116
Barcode: 635212011621

The Sunday Times, 27th January 2008

A freshness of approach and of sound makes Jamie Walton?s reading of Elgar?s Cello Concerto an appealing proposition, despite the crowded market. He sees this work not simply as an orgy of expressive indulgence; instead, he measures carefully its introspection. His approach is not distant, however, but typically balanced and unselfish. Under Briger?s well-paced direction, the Philharmonia is perfectly acceptable, though its playing can lack precision. The less often recorded two-movement C minor Cello Concerto of Nikolay Myaskovsky ? lyrical, nostalgic, regretful, it was composed in 1944 by this quiet but not compliant man of Soviet music ? completes the disc.


Stephen Pettitt

The Financial Times, February 2008, *****

Walton’s performance of the Elgar would be worth recommending on its own: this young British cellist is effortlessly accurate and, more important, emotionally engaged and engaging, especially in the Adagio. But there are plenty of good versions of the Elgar available; there are hardly any of Myaskovsky’s equally lyrical and melancholic concerto, which makes an inspired coupling. Despite living in such disparate lands and situations, these two composers shared a similar spiritual-musical world. Walton, with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Alexander Briger, deserves credit for making the point so sympathetically.

 The Times, February 2008, ****

How do you like the Elgar Cello Concerto performed? Jacqueline du Pré’s famous recording of 1965 accustomed listeners to a febrile, intensely personal interpretation, bordering on the neurotic. The interpretation worked for du Pré, and it stirred many hearts at the time. But 40 years have passed, and you won’t find the feverish approach in the fingers of the young British cellist Jamie Walton.

After the Royal Northern College of Music, he studied like du Pré with the great British teacher William Pleeth, though he very much follows his own star. His expression is clean and uncluttered, his musicianship unusually selfless. Only the music’s will matters. That plus his wonderful cello, the 1712 Guarneri costing £890,000, which he finally secured last year.

In his latest concerto recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra, under the Australian-born conductor Alexander Briger, Walton maintains a notably lower temperature than the legendary du Pré. Yet that doesn’t mean he’s not feeling the music. The cello quakes with vibrato, but sensibly avoids floods of tears. The pensive beauty of his slow movement is very moving; under his noble carriage, you still sense Elgar’s utter despair at the horrific slaughter of the First World War (concluded just a few months before he began composing).

The recording brings a few clouds of its own, dulling the lustrous tones that you normally expect with the Philharmonia. The sound needs more breathing space. Even so, this CD still stands out in a crowded field. Along with Walton’s caring sobriety, there’s the imaginative coupling.

This is Myaskovsky’s cello concerto of 1945, written in the last months of the century’s next world conflagration. If Elgar’s brand of yearning feels indubitably English, Myaskovsky’s music cries "Made in Russia". For all the gulf in the two concertos’ musical styles, they share a similar heartbeat: both composers were wringing their hands over death, destruction and innocence lost. Since Myaskovsky finds more peace than Elgar, we end the disc with some gentle uplift.

The same national mix is to be repeated in the cellist’s next CD, matching Britten and Shostakovich.

Geoff Brown

 The Sunday Telegraph, 8th March 2008

This fine disc is testimony to the musicality, maturity and insight that distinguish Jamie Walton’ cello playing. The coupling is an unusual one, but the two concertos he performs here with the Philharmonia under Alexander Briger prove to be particularly well matched in their expressive scope.

Whereas the Elgar concerto of 1919 looks back with nostalgia to a lost age of grandeur and to an old order shattered by the First World War, Myaskovsky’s of 1944-5 muses with despondency on the depredations and apprehension triggered by the Second World War a quarter of a century later. Both works have an elegiac feel to them, the ruminative atmosphere of their opening bars being recalled in the closing pages.

In interpreting these two works, Walton is not someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, which makes the atmosphere all the more poignant in the slow, mellow unfolding of the Elgar’s first movement and central adagio, and in the opening lento of the Myaskovsky. There is emotional force, but it is unforced. The first peak in the Elgar, for example, is achieved with naturalness and inevitability as the cello climbs its aspirational scale towards a top E. In the Myaskovsky, the cello, echoing the bassoon’s opening phrase and the strings’ aura of melancholy, weaves a brooding line as if relating a sad Russian epic.

Walton applies his warmth of timbre and refined spectrum of colouring perceptively to both works, as does the orchestra. At the same time, his deftness in the Elgar’s scherzo and in the passages of the Myaskovsky’s finale gives the music a wonderful airborne quality. Orchestra and soloist are as one in conveying the subtle spirit of this music on a disc that has an ineluctable power to draw you into its expressive realms.


Geoffrey Norris

 The Mail on Sunday, 23rd March 2008

Barbirolli would have surely approved of my other favourite: Elgar and Miaskovsky: Cello concertos (Signum), featuring young British cellist Jamie Walton with the Philharmonia under Alexander Briger. Barbirolli perhaps understood Elgar’s concerto better than any other musician. He was in the London Symphony Orchestra’s cello section for the disastrous premiere. But a little later, as only the third soloist to take up the piece, he gave the first well received performance of a work that has now become Elgar’s favourite offering.

It was a process Barbirolli helped along with two exceptional recordings as a conductor: the one everyone knows with Jackie de Pre, and the connoisseur’s choice, made a decade earlier with the French cellist Andre Navarra. In the later one Barbirolli allowed Du Pre her indulgences, but in the Navarra his pacing is exceptional. Walton and Briger are within a few seconds of his timings in all four movements, much to the music’s advantage, especially in the first movement which is taken more quickly than has now become the norm. Elgar, too, would surely have admired Walton for his restraint and nobility of tone, particularly in the two adagio passages.

This is an emotional work, but Elgar faced the world with a stiff upper lip, as Walton’s performance recognises, and this very reticence makes the music’s deeply ingrained sadness even more affecting. The coupling is Myaskovsky’s 1945 cello concerto, an eloquent and melodious piece – none the worse for being old-fashioned – which also benefits from a brisker than unusual performance.

David Mellor

MusicWeb International, April 2008

No sooner has Natalie Clein’s recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto left my reviewing desk than Jamie Walton’s arrives. Like Clein, Walton is a bit of a sniffer and the close recording picks up a number of anticipatory intakes of breath, albeit not as obtrusively as was the case in the Clein recording.

The two performances espouse different approaches and traditions. Where Clein’s emotive playing can lead to metrical stretching, Walton’s is an altogether more understated and linear performance. He has a multi-variegated vibrato which he employs with consistent subtlety. The result is a reading of real nobility and refinement, one that illuminates the music from within, and that never stretches the material too far. He maintains tension throughout the concerto and revels in the very fast bowing of the scherzo; dextrous wrist and forearm control here as he dispatches the writing with illuminating rapidity but not superficiality. It’s actually terpsichorean. He never lets the slow movement’s tempo relax too far or slacken. His expressive shading is certainly deliberately circumscribed but it is exceptionally well characterised. In his avoidance of rhetorical gestures he reminds me of the great French lineage in this work – Fournier, Navarra and Tortelier in particular. The sense of lyric nobility is palpable and admirable. From 4:00 in the finale he really does drive forward – the only time I would even slightly baulk at tempo choices – but I sense this is of a piece; it’s to intensify the climax at 4:32, to hint at the hysteria within the writing. I’m also not quite sure about his smears at the very end.

Otherwise I’m powerfully impressed by Walton’s playing and also by Alexander Briger’s thoroughly idiomatic conducting. He brings out the brass, and the lower strings in particular with outstanding eloquence though the recording isn’t always the most sympathetic. Briger is Charles Mackerras’s nephew, I believe.

Since the Myaskovsky concerto is often described as "autumnal" it’s particularly apt that Walton has chosen to promote it with the Elgar. I’ve racked my brains to think of a faster performance of the 1944 concerto but I don’t believe I have. Walton’s even faster than Rostropovich in his Moscow/Kondrashin performance, now in a Brilliant box, and also the first ever recording, made with Sargent in London. Speed isn’t everything of course; sometimes it’s nothing. But Walton has mitigated those moments of structural weakness in the work that can lead some players to excessive lingering – I shudder to remember Rodin and his 1996 recording, which stretched into the dim distant horizon.

This is a warm, sympathetic recording, that never wallows, that remains strongly directional whilst never stinting the many lyrical episodes. The wind solos are excellent and once again Briger distinguishes himself, setting a firm architectural goal. There’s no lingering in the first movement second subject – linear clarity allied to tonal warmth is the guiding principle underlying this performance. Don’t expect any gauche exaggerations either. This ensures the second of the two movements – the one that usually suffers the most from over-indulgent performers – is heard as an unbroken line with a basic tempo adhered to, not inflexibly, but with musical and structural insight.

Of course there are other, more overtly expressive ways to play both these works. But Walton seems to me to belong to the Anglo-French school in his interpretative stance in both concertos; affecting but not lachrymose, noble but not unyielding. I happen to be sympathetic to his approach and consequently find his playing admirable. To those who want more juice in up-to-date performances Clein will offer it in the Elgar and Mørk in the Myaskovsky but neither seems to me at all superior to Walton.


Jonathan Woolf

 Concerto Net

Having recorded the two Saint Saens concertos for Quartz, Walton and the Philharmonia and Alex Briger have come together again in a coupling of the Elgar and Myaskovsky which is, before all else, surprising. Put together thus these two reveal more than a few similarities. Besides figuring among the most mature works of the two composers they are both distinguished by a similar style, often introspective and the marriage of the cello with the orchestra is rarely confrontational or heroic, leaving every opportunity for lyricism.

Other aspects appear when listening to this disk, such as;-
A modest approach to the Elgar, Jamie Walton eschewing any excess of pathos. This studied (scholarly) clear and precise interpretation reveals a young soloist  with a most attractive mixture of elegance and forcefulness.   The beauty of the grain of the 1715  Guaneri and the care taken with the sound which bears witness of the empathy between the orchestra and the cello, puts this version by the young cellist in the category of a major success.

The same rapport with the Philharmonia is repeated in the Myaskovsky. Never forcing the chords Walton again delivers a reading of consummate precision. Above all, class and distinction characterize this musician whose name should surely be remembered.

Sebastien Foucart

 Chronique Musicale (French magazine), April 2008

This recording is original in that it makes the cello sing through two post romantic composers that seem opposed one to another. Elgar ( 1857-1934) a distinguished Englishman, a frequenter of music festivals, organist and leader of an orchestra, particularly known for his march Pomp and Circumstance. Myaskovsky (1881-1950) Polish born, considered as the father of the Soviet symphony, altogether devoted to Stalin; his work is no less interesting for that, influencing all 20th century musicians, even Shostakovich.

The two cello concertos on this recording have in common an extremely vocal approach by the instrument with a constant presence without pause. The cello is an operatic character whose passionate attributes, the orchestra reinforces. The preponderance of slow movements accentuates this. The lyrical nature thus revealed is the true common denominator of these two ‘ monuments’.

Each was written following a tragedy, that of the war, by Elgar in 1919; in 1945 by Myaskovsky. Walton’s interpretation is perfectly in accord with this tragic perspective. The Philharmonia’s accompaniment is impeccable, leaving the cello to dominate but without ever effacing itself too much, capable of the most subtle (extreme) nuances.


 The Telegraph Magazine, ***** 5 stars

One of the finest recordings of the Elgar.  Jamie Walton has a formidable technique; his playing in the scherzo and the finale is beyond compare; and he captures the autumnal melancholy without loss of vitality.  His pianissimos in the finale coda are a wonder.  He has like-minded collaborators in the Philharmonia and Alexander Briger, who also support him in Myaskovsky’s sombre concerto of 1945.


Michael Kennedy

  1. Cello Concerto Eminor 1.Adagio – Edward Elgar – 7.35
  2. 2. Lento – Edward Elgar – 4.24
  3. 3. Adagio – Edward Elgar – 4.44
  4. 4. Allegro – Edward Elgar – 11.12
  5. Cello Concerto Cminor 1. Lento – Nikolai Myaskovsky – 10.40
  6. 2. Allegro vivace – Nikolai Myaskovsky – 16.18