One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             



AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Coronation March, Op. 65 (1911) [10.37]
Grania and Diarmid, Op. 42: Funeral March (1901) [10.21]
Pomp and Circumstance Marches Op. 39: No. 1 (1901) [6.13]; No. 2 (1901) [5.08]; No. 3 (1904) [5.48]; No. 4 (1907) [5.14]; No. 5 (1930) [6.16]
Caractacus, Op. 35: March (1898) [7.06]
March of the Mogul Emperors, Op. 66 No. 4 (1912) [3.50]
Empire March (1924) [4.17]
Polonia, symphonic prelude, Op. 76 (1915) [14.25]
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/James Judd
rec. Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, New Zealand, February 2003
NAXOS 8.557273 [79.16]

Naxos has done itself a disservice in featuring the familiar Pomp and Circumstance marches on the box and in the blurb. Intrepid collectors mightn't think to check out the remainder of the program and thatís where the real interest lies.

Ominous brass calls get the Coronation March, commissioned for the coronation of George V in 1911, off to an uncharacteristically grim, portentous start. The music soon settles into the sort of affirmative whirling flourishes later adopted by Walton and Bliss for their own occasional pieces. We don't frequently hear anything from the cantata Caractacus or the incidental music for Moore and Yeats' play Grania and Diarmid; the funeral march from the latter is particularly striking, its peculiar half-tints suggestive - as Keith Anderson notes in the booklet - of the Celtic twilight. And Polonia, written for a 1915 concert in aid of the Polish Victims' Relief Fund, is a find. Elgar described it as a "symphonic prelude", but it's really a compact, gripping tone-poem, making a far greater impact, to my mind, than the discursive Falstaff - admired though the latter is in many quarters. The other pieces, if less distinctive, are appealing make-weights.

Three cheers for the repertoire, then; but only two for the performances. The program, like some real concerts, takes a while to build a head of steam; were the selections recorded in order? The ceremonial splendor of the first two works exposes the tonal shortcomings of the understaffed New Zealand Symphony string sections: too many passages sound unduly subdued, though the eerie woodwind blends of the Grania and Diarmid selection are nicely realized. It doesn't help that James Judd, on this outing at least, suffers from the Leonard Slatkin Disease, in which the strings don't carry full tonal weight from note to note, thus sapping their sonority of interest and life. Interpretatively, the conductor rather botches the Pomp and Circumstance set, setting skittish, unstable tempi, imposing arbitrary unmarked holds, and passing a fair amount of nervous, approximate execution.

To my surprise, the following performances improved exponentially. The brass chording that introduces and dominates the Caractacus march sounds splendid: firmly grounded, pillowy in tone, well-balanced, and resplendently recorded in the bargain. In the trio section, the woodwinds manage to suggest delicacy and solemnity at once. And Polonia gets precisely the rhythmic alertness and logical phrase shaping that's missing elsewhere. With its lovely poignant woodwind soli and full-throated tuttis, it's the highlight of the disc.

A small cavil: a number of the pauses between tracks are chintzy, as if the producers were afraid of exceeding the disc's space limits. Still, at Naxos prices, you can buy this for the latter half of the program. I'd look elsewhere for Pomp and Circumstance, however: Norman Del Mar's colorful, vibrant accounts - on a Polydor LP or a Deutsche Grammophon CD - are well worth seeking out.

Stephen Francis Vasta

see also review by Patrick Waller



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month


Chopin Bruce Liu

Ingeneri Volume 2

Mondonville - Titon et L'Aurore

Telemann - French Cantatas 1


March 2022

Brahms Symphony 4
MacMillan Larghetto for Orchestra

Bruch Violin Concertos

Debussy Preludes Book 2

Jan-Peter de GRAAFF
Cello Concertos

La Nuit étoilé
Berlioz. Holmes


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.