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Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61 (1910) [46:47]
Piano Concerto (slow movement) Op. 90 (transcribed Percy Young 1956) [6:06]
Polonia, Op. 76, (Symphonic Prelude) (1915) The Crown of India, Op. 66, extracts: March [4:26]; Hail Immemorial Ind! [6:33] Civic Fanfare – Hereford, Three Choirs Festival, 1927 [1:22]
Salvatore Accardo (violin)
Margaret Fingerhut (piano)
Mette Christine Ĝstergaard (mezzo)
Münchner Symphoniker/Douglas Bostock
London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox (violin concerto)
rec. 1991/2000, Abbey Road, London; Bavaria Tonstudio, München ALTO ALC1423 [78:27]
This very well-filled disc is a compilation of Elgar works headed by the Violin Concerto supplemented by several more which might be considered rarer pieces. Fully twenty years ago, both Gerald Fenech and Rob Barnett approvingly reviewed the Classico disc (CLASSCD334), which was volume 7 of “The British Symphonic Collection” and contained five of the tracks here, and three years later Rob again equally enthusiastically reviewed the Regis (RRC 1014) re-issue of the original 1992 Collins Classics recording of the Violin Concerto, which was coupled with the Walton Violin Concerto.
Hickox immediately gives the Violin Concerto the right feeling of urgency, pressing forward to give the music momentum and sustain that special Elgarian exhilaration while urging the LSO to play con slancio. Accardo hasn’t the most voluptuous of tones but he phrases indulgently and Romantically and his soft playing is lovely, He seems to be entirely sympathetic to the idiom; nonetheless there are some strange little slips which required a retake, such as the bow-scrapes around eight minutes into the Andante and the unsteadiness in its concluding, sustained D, and I miss some of the weight and roundness of sound I hear in my favourite recordings from Nigel Kennedy and, above all, Kyoko Takezawa with Colin Davis; she makes her instrument sing like an operatic mezzo-soprano, with a more generous vibrato and deeper resonance and I don’t think Accardo’s leaner timbre always fills out Elgar’s sufficiently. He is also quite brisk, and whereas it is possible to accuse Kennedy of over-egging the slow movement, I prefer that to being too dry-eyed in music of such yearning power.
The other, shorter and minor works are interesting. The slow movement fragment of the incomplete Piano Concerto is a lush, languorous, melodious confection. It is, perhaps, of no great distinction but certainly of interest and is affectionately played. I cannot agree with my colleague that Polonia is “one of the finest works Elgar ever wrote”; to my ears, it is something of a ragbag of themes but it is certainly played here with conviction and builds on the tune of the Polish National Anthem to a splendid climax. The March is typically grand and glorious without being especially memorable. Mezzo-soprano Mette Christine Ĝstergaard sings melodiously in “Hail, Immemorial Ind!” but it is just as well that Henry Hamilton’s text is provided, as I can understand barely a word she sings. The recital concludes, incongruously, with the grand fanfare Elgar wrote which was used to open the Hereford Festival from 1927 until 1949.
The notes by James Murray, Lewis Foreman and biographical information - presumably from the first Classico issue - are inordinately full and helpful.
The main work here is good but not as desirable as the superior accounts I mention above or the older versions which Rob cites in his review; I think you’d have to be a committed Elgarian to view this as essential.