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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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Edward ELGAR (1857 - 1934)
Enigma Variations, Op.36 (1899) [32:09]
Nursery Suite (1931) [22:53]
Chanson de Matin Op.15, No.2 (1901) [3:26]
Pomp and Circumstance March No.4, Op.39 (1907) [5:09]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Yehudi Menuhin
no recording details given; originally issued in part, 1994, Tring International. DDD
REGIS RRC 1219 [63.48]

This low priced re-issue of a Tring recording is not a straight re-issue of the original, which had instead of the Nursery Suite and Chanson de Matin, a superb recording of Elgarís In the South. Quite why it was not re-issued in full, I am not sure, but good as this is, I would have preferred the original.

Yehudi Menuhin, never an inspirational conductor, nevertheless had a long and successful career in this profession with many good recordings under his belt. Although he was not particularly super-competent, he was always treated with the respect he deserved by the ensembles he worked with. He produced some very good recordings, better in fact than one might have expected. This is one of them.

He obviously had, based upon the evidence of this recording, a very good relationship with the Royal Philharmonic, an orchestra which was, as now, having a tough time in the classical music field. This relationship has here produced performances of Elgarís works which, whilst not leading the field are by no means at the bottom. Given the very low price and the simplifying of the repertoire, the disc may well do quite well in the shops given how well known Menuhinís name is.

The disc opens with the Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4. While lacking the authority of a Barbirolli or a Boult the march is nevertheless given a boisterous and stirring performance which many will enjoy. The recording expands magnificently to cause quite a thrill. We next move on to the gently engaging Chanson de Matin. It is not difficult music, and the performance goes very well. The Nursery Suite, inspired by the birth of Princess Margaret Rose, is late Elgar, The seven movements are relatively simple with not much to detain the listener. The work was dedicated to both Princesses, and is in the style of The Wand of Youth suites. At an early run-through in the presence of the Royal Family and other VIPs including Bernard Shaw, it was remarked that although written for the nursery, there was much more to the music than the simplicity of the subject matter might suggest.

By the time we reach the Enigma Variations, the listener will have picked up the impression that we are in for a gentle performance. However this is not a gentle Enigma. There is real muscle in this performance as becomes noticeable at a reasonably early stage. The orchestra respond exceptionally well. The brass and percussion dominate in parts - where it is necessary. The organ reinforces the bottom end of the score in the last variation and does so in a most impressive way. Although the sound of the brass is somewhat over-enthusiastic and can sometimes run away with itself, I would far rather have this than the over-careful renderings we can get today.

Highly recommended, given the performances and the low price but why no In the South?


John Phillips

 

 

 



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