Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Cello Concerto in E minor [29.52]
Sea Pictures [23.53]
Prelude from The Kingdom [9.57]
Li-Wei (cello), Elizabeth Campbell (mezzo)
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
rec. no details supplied
ABC CLASSICS DISCOVERY 476 3535 [63.42]
The brief booklet notes to this disc tell us nothing whatsoever about the artists, so they – and their reasons for wishing to make yet another version of works that are already more than adequately represented in the catalogues – remain obscure.
Li-Wei is the soloist for Elgar’s Cello Concerto, which opens the disc, but although Li-Wei clearly has excellent technique and clear articulation, the Concerto lacks the emotion and heart-wrenching pathos of many other accounts – although this does pick up a bit towards the very end. The slow movement is very introspective, and the work as a whole is slow, reserved and distant. Although it is given a suitable air of resignation, it lacks animation and spirit, and I find the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra rather unfocused.
The tempi in the ensuing Sea Pictures are also generally on the slow side, with the Sea Slumber Song rather ponderous and lacking in conviction, authority or clarity. Furthermore, despite the turgid pace, some of the words are still unclear. Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Campbell’s voice comes across as restricted in In Haven, and there is a notable inflexibility and rigidity in this movement – no sense of flow; no rhythmic freedom. Sabbath Morning at Sea takes a long time to get going, but we suddenly, finally, have some emotion at the end of the movement – although I wonder how manufactured, as opposed to genuine, this is. The organ accompaniment, however, is impressive at this point. Campbell comes into her own in the final movement, The Swimmer, in which her enunciation quickly picks up, as does a sense of emotion and connection to, and understanding and communication of, the music. Braithwaite also takes this at a better tempo.
The disc concludes with the Prelude from The Kingdom, and this makes an exemplary filler, with perfectly judged tempo, and excellent playing.
So, all in all, a rather mixed and uneven disc, with some awe-inspiring moments, and some disappointing.
Rather mixed and uneven with some awe-inspiring moments and some disappointing.