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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Violin Concerto () [55.20]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Partita No. 2 in D minor [18.19]
Ida Haendel (violin)
London PO/Sir Adrian Boult
Elgar: rec 24 Apr, 10 May 1977, 10, 15 Jan 1978, Abbey Road Studios, London - ADD
Bach: Sept 1995, Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London - ADD
TESTAMENT SBT 1146 [73.02]


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Yes that's right: the Bach is from an analogue recording from 1995. It is part of a complete set issued on both vinyl and 'silver'. The vividly commanding recording was made on analogue 3M tape to satisfy the lust of high end enthusiasts and collectors.

I sought out this disc because I am lost in admiration for Ms Haendel's playing of the Sibelius, Delius, Walton and Britten. Also I have warm memories of her Szymanowski - in the first concerto, I think. The Elgar is one of my 'desert island' works and I had to hear Haendel's version especially in a recording resplendently set down by Christopher Bishop and Christopher Parker.

For years I swore by the CBS LP of the Elgar with Zukerman (LPO/Barenboim). The Elgar/Menuhin, revered in almost all quarters, always seemed staid and ... well, dull, and the Boult/Menuhin similarly. Excellent recordings exist from Sammons, Hugh Bean (when will that CFP LP be issued on CD - it is sorely missed), Accardo and even (and be warned this is another of my eccentric choices!) the David Oistrakh Melodiya version on Olympia. Best of all though is the version with Heifetz and the Sargent. I am no great lover of Heifetz's steely perfection but in this case and with hoarsely emotional support from Sargent and the LSO there is nothing to touch it - now easily and economically obtainable on Naxos. I am afraid that the Heifetz/Sargent recommendation remains my top choice. While Haendel's dreamily matchless silver tone is there to behold the pulse is predominantly slow and reflection drifts towards maudlin shoals. I expected the finale to shake off this mood but it was only emphasised. I wonder if the then very elderly Boult was the reason for this unsatisfactory mood and tone. This is not without strengths and things do catch fire but the flame gutters and chokes far too easily.

Recommendable to those wanting to document the latest Boult way with Elgar and to hear Haendel's lovely tone. The latter is the reason I will return to this disc. Sadly it cannot be a first or even top six choice. It just does not gel and lacks coherent conviction.

Rob Barnett


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