With the exception of the Cello Concerto this is an all Solti-Elgar
set. Solti never got round to the Cello Concerto (but then as far as I
am aware neither did Rostropovich). Solti's 1970s immersion in Elgar represented
something of a Damascene experience for some of us.
His Cockaigne is rather closer to Beecham's
iconoclastically sanguine performance (on Sony) than to Boult's ‘mainstream’.
What saturated glories Solti would have wrung from Arthur Butterworth's
Northern Cockaigne, the overture Mancunians, an event,
sadly, not to be. I never got to hear Solti in In the South and
he ducked out of doing the Introduction and Allegro. Another
Not entirely surprisingly it was Beecham I thought
of during the Enigma as well. It was about a year ago that I
wrote about the Sony Beecham-Elgar CD (Serenade, Enigma,
Cockaigne). This is flighty, heartfelt, shivery, torrential,
rasping, a little breathless (Solti often tested his orchestras with
Porsche-tempi), balletic and regal. Solti turns the metaphorical water-cannons
on Elgar and it comes up in technicolour dazzle. It does not make me
want to give up looking for the Norman del Mar/RPO version but it is
still a grandly pleasurable listen. Be warned that there is some treble
edginess at fortissimo. The analogue tape is all but thirty years
The Solti version of the Violin Concerto is in the
hands of Kyung Wha Chung. Her tone is steady, sweetly slender and shapely
bringing out the instrument's soprano fach. Hers is a searching rapier
tone - silver-steel - a Toledo blade. This is yet a further good version
of a work already blessed with a host of healthy, touching and exhilarating
recordings: Accardo (Collins - deleted), Bean (an old CFP LP with Charles
Groves - surely in line for reissue), Oistrakh (Olympia - long gone
now); Heifetz (outstanding with Sargent on Naxos), Zukerman (one of
his finest recordings - Sony Essential Classics) and Sammons (unmissable
for any Elgarian - Naxos). The Kingsway Hall provides its usual businesslike
definition, transparency and smiling ambience.
The Julian Lloyd Webber/Menuhin is well worth hearing.
As so often with the cellist the impression of spontaneity is strong.
He plays with great technical command and a striking ability to transfer
his concentration to the listener. There is some 'reinvention' in the
invigorating little inflections and holdings back of the flow. After
a heartfelt Adagio the Allegro goes with a swing and a
touch of the Nielsen's orgoglioso. Recording quality is subtly
lit with acres of detailing and no shortage of thumping impact.
Nothing here to gripe about. It is only the most spoilt
of children who would think of asking Decca why we could not have had
Solti's Falstaff instead of Enigma and his In The South
as an added track.
Solti was a damned fine Elgar interpreter inclined
to shake the rafters but obviously convinced that Elgar was for the
world not exclusively for the supposedly milk and water sensibilities
of the Brits. A bargain here for the buying.