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Walton is splendidly pompous and circumstantial when extolling the Babylonian gods. Here, for instance, is the 'God of Gold' [listen -- CD1 track 5, 0:00-1:45]. Once Belshazzar has been weighed in the balance and found wanting, the Jews can really let rip [listen -- CD1 track 8, 0:00-1:14]. Sargent's vitality matches Walton's, and he has his forces under masterful control; the recorded sound effortlessly dismisses fifty years and makes me wish I could be digitally remastered.

It would be good to take a break for meditation before the Elgar. The Surikov painting on the booklet cover of Belshazzar's Feast could conceivably be a memorable night out for Cardinal Newman's demons; and one might shed a tear for Surikov, whose work in the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Saviour survived until Stalin turned it into a swimming pool. Now for Elgar. The Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra shows its paces at once in the Prelude [listen -- CD1 track 11, 5:45-7:28]. I'm not sure I agree with Alec Robertson's view that Sargent had achieved 'greater spiritual perception' since the 1945 recording I grew up on.

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Copyright © 29 June 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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