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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Froissart – Concert Overture [12:49]
Cockaigne (In London Town) [14:48]
Imperial March [4:24]
Violin Concerto in B minor [47:47]
Yehudi Menuhin (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult (violin concerto),
rec. All Saints’, Tooting, 29 September 1970 and 19 February 1971, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, 16 December 1976 and Kingsway Hall, London 28-30 December 1965 and 25 January 1966. ADD
EMI CLASSICS 3821562 [80:17]
Experience Classicsonline

This EMI reissue brings together some important Elgar recordings made by Sir Adrian Boult. They date from the 1960s and 1970s, a period of a resurgence in Elgar’s reputation. EMI were in the forefront of this revival - they had just recorded the Cello concerto with du Pré and Barbirolli and the latter had made the first LP recording of the Dream of Gerontius together with magnificent and opulent recordings of both symphonies and Falstaff. All these recordings are available on the excellent EMI 30 CD Elgar set issued to mark the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. It is perhaps pertinent that EMI chose to include Barbirolli’s recordings of the Froissart and Cockaigne overtures rather than those of Boult on the 30 CD set, and it is fairly easy to see why. Although Boult secures excellent performances of both works with the LPO, they are rather more measured and do not get as beneath the surface as Barbirolli’s versions. Boult takes a rather more Brahmsian approach which leaves Froissart a little dry and uninteresting, and, similarly, he does not elicit the “swagger” that is necessary to bring off Cockaigne despite the fact that he was a schoolboy in London at precisely the period that the work depicts. The Imperial March is more successful but does not in my opinion match the later recording by Groves which is more evocative of the period for which it was written, Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

The recording of the Violin Concerto originally appeared in 1966 and brought together one of the greatest conductors of the work - Boult had studied the score as a teenager with Elgar and had been at the first performance in 1910 - and one of the foremost exponents of the solo part, Menuhin, who had famously recorded the work with the composer himself in 1932 as a teenager. Interestingly, both Boult and Elgar were in their mid-70s when they made their recordings. This recording is more convincing than the preceding works on the disc, and there are no “fireworks, high jinks or self indulgent gestures” as may be found on later recordings. Both Boult and Menuhin bring together a life-time’s experience of performing the work - they already had many concert performances together under their belt - and this is reflected in this recording. Menuhin plays superbly and the accompaniment is first rate. However, I did find the slow movement rather too prosaic, and perhaps a little too fast - should it not ebb and flow a little more than it does here? Nevertheless, the first and last movements are superbly executed with the finale following the unaccompanied cadenza played with great aplomb and the final tuba and horn parts bringing the work and this recording to a most satisfying close!

Em Marshall



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