> ELGAR Enigma, Introduction and Allegro A Davis [TB]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Overture: Cockaigne, Opus 40
Introduction and Allegro, Opus 47
Enigma Variations, Opus 36
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis
Rec 1991 Teldec
APEX 09274 13712 [68.15] Superbudget


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Three of Elgar's greatest orchestral works are featured here at the attractive Apex price. This reissue of 1991 performances (previously available on Teldec) makes an attractive proposition, since the orchestra clearly knows the music well and the conductor is among the leaders in this field.

The Cockaigne Overture always presents an orchestra with the opportunity to sound at its best, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra certainly does so, captured in warmly atmospheric sound which allows for the richly sonorous climaxes to make their mark. Davis makes excellent point of the musical range, articulating the rhythmic details crisply, while also giving due emphasis to the tender lyricism which lies at the opposite pole of this wonderful score.

While the Introduction and Allegro as conducted by Davis does not alter the position of Barbirolli's famous performance as the leader in the field, it remains highly satisfactory. The dynamic shadings allow the range of the musical expression to be felt, and the sound of the BBC Symphony Orchestra strings is nothing if not pleasing.

The largest of the three works is the famous Enigma Variations. This is played with real freshness, the tempi always appropriately judged: the noble Nimrod variation comes over splendidly, for example. Perhaps the sound at climactic moments is not quite as full bodied as it might be, but the sweep of momentum in the closing stages is still compelling.

Terry Barfoot

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