This recording has
been raved about in the press so I was
very interested to find out whether
I agreed with all of the hype. Alas,
I didn’t. Although it is exceptionally
well played and recorded it is a little
on the sleepy side. It is all played
so safely; no trace at all of the passion
one finds with Boult or Barbirolli.
Elder has some way to go before he can
challenge recordings made by these conductors
head to head.
I have compared this
performance with other famous and not
so famous versions in the catalogue.
In many cases I find that superior versions
are to be had in the current lists ...
and at much lower prices. This serves
to make the present issue uncompetitive.
Even if we confine
ourselves to the Hallé, Elder
cannot hold a candle to their Barbirolli
version for EMI (CDM 764 724-2, mid-price)
where the passion radiates from the
playing. Barbirolli’s first movement
does not come to a grinding halt as
Elder almost does - particularly at
around six minutes in. Barbirolli is
at much the same tempo here, but the
playing of the Hallé is so much
more alive in the earlier version. Remember
that the Barbirolli was slated when
it was first released because of its
The movement is marked
Allegro vivace e nobilmente.
In Elder’s hands it is neither happy
nor especially noble. With Barbirolli,
vivace it isn’t, but nobilmente
it certainly is. When the tempo
increases, the playing of Elder’s Hallé
is very secure, but sounding more than
a little bit tired, particularly when
compared with Boult, also on EMI. In
Boult’s version the climax really wells
up into something quite extraordinary
- very nobilmente. Boult slows
down more than Elder, but this is put
into perspective when the climax proper
arrives. At that point Boult has the
orchestra surging forward in a most
No-one can play the
slow movement as well as Barbirolli;
grunts and all. Elder is quite good
here but not in the same class as his
illustrious predecessor. Barbirolli
conducts the largo fairly rapidly at
13’50" compared with Elder at 15’43".
Unfortunately a slow speed does not
automatically equate to emotion. I find
the movement a bit static. There is
much more forward movement in other
performances. With Bernard Haitink and
the Philharmonia there is an infinitely
more experienced hand on the tiller.
His years of experience with Bruckner
adagios shows through. The quality of
the Philharmonia’s playing easily matches
that of the Hallé.
Without going into
the same amount of detail for the scherzo
and finale, the new version suffers
from the same problems as the earlier
movements although maybe slightly less
seriously. The new recording is very
good, but the earlier versions (all
EMI) are more than adequate. Apart from
minimal background noise are all in
the top flight Abbey Road, All Saints
Tooting and Kingsway Hall sound quality
which EMI has been achieving over many
The Hallé recording
has what I suspect is an error in the
booklet for the locations for recording.
Whilst they could be right the details
are slightly suspicious. According to
the case insert the Introduction
and Allegro for strings was recorded
at the Bridgewater Hall as was the spoken
poem, (quite forgettable as it happens).
Apparently the symphony was recorded
in Studio 7 Broadcasting House, Manchester.
Whilst this is perfectly possible, I
cannot see why the Bridgewater Hall
was not used for both orchestral recordings.
for Strings is perfectly acceptable,
but again I miss the passion of a Barbirolli
or a Boult in this very demanding music.
and Mr. Elder. Try to sound a little
more interested in the music next time.
I am sure that you have the ability
to stun us one day, as you did with
Sir John in 1966.