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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Falstaff op. 68 (1913) [33:19]
Enigma Variations op. 36 (1899) [29:46]
Pomp and Circumstance March No. 5 (1930) [5:41]
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Andrew Davis
rec. 4-5 January 1974. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.301 [68:46]

Experience Classicsonline


This was Davis's first recording of Falstaff. With Enigma it belongs to the now dwindling stream of original Lyrita recordings issued for the first time on compact disc. There's another later version of Davis’s Falstaff on Warner with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The recording under review is full of inveigling and entrancingly vivid detail painted in with a dramatist’s sensibility. It should please all Elgarians and not a few Shakespearians. Its strengths are piled high and the playing of the Philharmonia has a lot to do with it. The brass section are caught in burred golden amber sound - magnificent! I am a strong proponent of Barbirolli's classic version; however, this Lyrita disc now stands as my reference point.

After a golden Falstaff whatever happened to Davis’s Enigma? I don't want to say too much but despite several hearings this remains faceless and hurriedly despatched. It's pretty quick too at 29:46 which is not intrinsically a problem but this lacks grip and emotional fibre. Davis certainly avoids the glucose in Nimrod but the whole thing moves without emotional gravitas. The much later recording of the stately quick-tempo Pomp and Circumstance 5 is much better, crashing with energy and hubris - a pity the sessions did not pick up the other four. It’s not the first time we have heard this march either. It was added along with the Dorabella movement to the Lyrita Classics disc on SRCD.336.

The original LP which was SRCS 77 always seemed to me excess to requirements. I couldn’t have been listening to Falstaff all that well. Going by the absence of Davis from any other Lyrita releases I can only guess that the sessions or the collaboration did not go happily. A pity really because this Falstaff really is something special. Who knows what he would have done for Bax, Brian, Moeran or Finzi.


Rob Barnett

Full Track-list

Falstaff, Symphonic Study Op.68 (1913) 33.19
1 I Falstaff and Prince Henry — an apartment of the Prince's 2.58
2 II Eastcheap — Gadshill — The Boar's Head. Revelry and sleep —
Dream Interlude: Jack Falstaff, now Sir John, a boy,
and page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk 15.07
3 III Falstaff's march — Return through Gloucestershire —
Interlude: Shallow’s orchard — The new King — The ride to London 6.30
4 IV King Henry V's progress to his Coronation —
The repudiation of Falstaff, and his death 8.44
Enigma, Variations on an original Theme Op.36 (1899) 29.46
5 Theme Andante 1.27
6 I (C.A.E.) L'istesso tempo 1.41
7 II (H.D.S-P.) Allegro 0.45
8 III (R.B.T.) Allegretto 1.22
9 IV (W.M.B.) Allegro di molto 0.28
10 V (R.P.A.) Moderato 2.09
11 VI (Ysobel) Andantino 1.18
12 VII (Troyte) Presto 0.58
13 VIII (W.N.) Allegretto 1.40
14 IX (Nimrod) Adagio 3.20
15 X (Dorabella) Intermezzo - andante 2.36
16 XI (G.R.S.) Allegro di molto 0.56
17 XII (B.G.N.) Andante 2.49
18 XIII (***) Romanza - moderato 2.42
19 XIV (E.D.U.) Allegro 5.28
20 Pomp and Circumstance March No. 5 in C Op. 39 (1930) 5.41



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