Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 6
Sound Quality: 8
There’s real talent in Eivind Holtsmark Ringstad’s viola playing. Certainly the Walton concerto holds no terrors for him. Aside from perhaps an excessively wide vibrato in his upper register, he sails through the piece with an expressive tone, interacting pointedly with the orchestra in the dashing central scherzo, and singing out beautifully in the long finale. Through it all Joshua Weilerstein and the Oslo Philharmonic accompany with precision and plenty of color. Balances are excellent, with the harp part (this is Walton’s revised scoring) touched in just perfectly. So far so good.
Sadly, the Sinding coupling is problematic. The first issue is that it’s a Sinding coupling. A not terribly interesting composer at his best, this Suite im Alten Stil is far from that. It has three movements–a perpetual motion opening presto, a romantic adagio, and a rustic finale full of double-stopping. There are a couple of vaguely baroque cadences, but otherwise this is routine stuff, made even worse by the fact that Ringstad is playing a transcription of the violin and orchestra original.
You can tell right away: the accompaniment sounds muddy and colorless, as if included as an afterthought. It’s obviously “wrong.” How much of this is the fault of a different conductor (Arvid Engegard) it’s hard to say, but surely Ringstad could have (and should have) found a better coupling for the Walton. Adding insult to injury, the entire disc only times out at about forty minutes–poor value, and an uncompetitive release overall. Ringstad’s talent was wasted. Hopefully his next offering, if there is one, will be smarter.
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