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Symphony No. 1 48.09
Meistersinger Overture 8.17
SWR Radio SO, Stuttgart/Roger Norrington
live recordings
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Launching a new series from Hanssler, Norrington and the Stuttgart Orchestra make a most affirmative start. I cannot claim to be an Elgarian of any depth so comparisons will be scant. Hearing the stride and confidence of this work afresh after several years of abstinence caused me to take stock. This is such a convincing work for a first symphony. Would that he had concentrated on symphonies rather than venerated but deadly choral works (Gerontius, Apostles and The Kingdom). Elgar's emotionally expressive gift is Mahlerian in compass and it was Mahler's passion that, time and again, suggested itself to me as I played this recording. Norrington and his German orchestra give a totally convincing performance - an especial laurel wreath for the brass section. His reading is heavy and hoarse with emotion and with the storm and sorrow of life. That slow-sauntering dignified theme which opens and closes the work in brooding anger and resignation is a mark of Elgar's genius. Norrington is equally adept at Elgar's Berliozian fancies in the second movement and in a surprisingly Baxian coup in the first (10.01).

As for comparative versions: the later Boult is far too staid, Barbirolli and the CFP Handley are worth hearing as is the Naxos with George Hurst (a much underrated conductor). I also like Solti in his 1970s Decca recording though this is not to everyone's taste. Norrington has superb recording quality.

I hope that we are long past the stultifying stage where we xenophobically claim that this music can only be played by British orchestras.

We also have the polished interpretation of the Overture to 'make up the weight'. A pity Norrington could not have added Froissart or, better yet, In the South - imagine a successor in the very best of sound to Silvestri's overwhelmingly passionate reference recording from the 1960s (EMI, Bournemouth SO).

Live recording - plenty of atmosphere and hardly a cough or sneeze. Useful notes (strangely enough they are in Spanish as well as English, German and French - a sign perhaps of Hanssler's sensitivity towards the American market) by British Music Society member Meinhard Saremba. We now await a second symphony from this source.

Rob Barnett



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ELGAR: Symphony No. 1 in A Flat Major, op. 55

Andante - Nobilmente e semplice - Allegro

Allegro molto


Lento - Allegro


Overture from Die Meistersinger

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