EDWARD ELGAR - Orchestral
Works on BEULAH
THREE DISC SET (each CD available separately)
(1) 1PD15 COLLINS CONDUCTS ELGAR [58.47]
Falstaff - A Symphonic Study (London Symphony Orchestra)
Introduction and Allegro for Strings (New Symphony Orchestra)
Serenade for Strings (New Symphony Orchestra).
(2) 2PD15 VAN BEINUM CONDUCTS ELGAR (London Philharmonic
Cello Concerto (Anthony Pini)
Wand of Youth Suites 1 and 2
(3) 3PD15 BOULT CONDUCTS ELGAR (BBCSO) [66.23]
Second Symphony rec 1944
Sospiri and Prelude to Dream of Gerontius rec 1930s.
1-3PD15 ELGAR INTERPRETATIONS - BOX SET £24.95
ALL DISCS MONO
Individual discs retail at £9.95 each. The box of 3 CDs costs
£24.95 P&P £1.25. Cheques made payable to Beulah. Send to:
BEULAH, 66 Rochester Way, Crowborough, TN6 2DU
This set collects together at an attractive price three reissue discs that
first appeared in 1995. Anthony Collins performances are released on CD for
the first time.
It is too easily forgotten that these recordings were made during the depths
of the hoar-frost years for Elgar's music and in the case of the Symphony
during the depths of the second world war. While Enigma had continuing
currency as did some of the Pomp and Circumstance marches the other
works in this set became less frequent visitors to the concert hall and recording
studio. Recording Elgar in 1930s-1960s was a risk-heavy business and marked
out companies swimming against the fashionable rip-tide.
These recordings kept Elgar's banner flying in often adverse circumstances
and the ones from the 1930s and 1940s would have been known initially only
on 78s with the continuity and sound quality here only dreamt of in those
far off days.
While Adrian Boult seems always to have had a place in the high prestige
premium label ranges I always associate Van Beinum and Collins with Decca's
Eclipse label LPs at 19s/11d or 99p per vinyl disc. This of course betrays
my age. I was a student in Bristol in the early 1970s and spent many happy
hours browsing the new and second-hand classical racks on Whiteladies Road,
at the HMV shop and at the Wise Owl book and record shop. Those Decca Eclipses
used as illustrations 'chocolate box' photos from National Trust properties.
Truth to tell they were not the most prepossessing of sleeves compared with
the glories of the premium price labels.
These are all mono recordings and their vintages spans three decades from
the 1930s to the 1950s.
Collins (a composer in his own right - when will we hear his two symphonies?)
is better known for his brilliantly sympathetic Sibelius symphonies recorded
in mono by Decca during the early 1950s. In Falstaff (rec 1954) he
is in touch with the mercurial fantasy of the work, making of it something
of a midsummer night's dream. The tragedy and some of the gawky ruined heroism
of Falstaff escapes Collins affectionate hands but in its place you are blown
hither and yon by a butterfly imagination and a shiver of tenderness. I have
never heard the quirkier quieter passages played with such feather-drift
abandon. The sometimes reticent recording does not have the obvious impact
of many other recordings but where it is strong is in the detail. A certain
lack of weight afflicts the heavier moments as in the famous horn swooping
guffaws at 20.00 and later.
The Introduction and Allegro was recorded two years before with the
same engineer (Ken Wilkinson) as the Falstaff. The recording is good
indeed with some weight to the strings. A thinness can afflict the string
sound but this is vivid music-making with a devil-may-care rush of excitement
to the music vying with the tenderness of the solo viola song at 6.58 (like
a similar passage in In The South). Tenderness is also the hallmark
of the Serenade which is redolent of Dvorák (Serenade for
Strings) and Sibelius (Valse Triste). This does not displace the
stereo EMI Barbirolli but is no mean account. The slightly bony character
of the higher string sound is noticeable once or twice. If you knew these
works only from this recording no injustice would be done to Elgar or you
though you do forsake the broader span of stereo tracking.
Eduard van Beinum (1901-1959) recorded these Elgar works in 1949 and 1950
on the cusp of the 78/LP transition. The concerto was issued on 10" LP. The
others were first released on 78. Cockaigne is accorded a gutsy
performance - bluff but not at all heartless. The pace of the music is not
allowed to collapse. The sense of sustained momentum is most impressive.
The bruisingly blowsy brass sound at 6.03 is forward and with impact. Rawness
in the recorded sound is inevitable. The Concerto (where the masters sound
to be in better heart) is given a very fine controlled performance, powerful
in its restraint rather than in abandon. Precision does not make for a lack
of intensity in the presence case. While my love for the volcanic Jacqueline
Dupré Sony-CBS recording (rather than the lauded studio version on
EMI as conducted by Barbirolli) is not undermined the Pini is an easier,
though still challenging, version to live with and a better library choice
- allowance being made for mono sound.
These same qualities of precise attention and clarity while preserving the
pulse of the music are singularly evident in the refined magic of the light
music balletic pieces: Wand of Youth and Elegy. These are drawn
from a deep stock swelled by the work of hundreds of composers but Elgar's
fairy-tale illustrations are a cut above. The Wand of Youth suites
sound very good indeed: vibrant sound and bristling with life. However this
contrasts with the Elegy for string orchestra which while clearly
enjoying a heartfelt eloquent performance is subject to the worst surface
noise in the set.
Unlike the other discs in the set these recordings of the BBCSO conducted
by the then Dr Adrian Boult were not made in the Kingsway Hall. They are
all HMV recordings and are the oldest in the trio of CDs. The two shorter
pieces were set down in EMI Studio 1 at London's Abbey Road in 1934 and 1937
(Sospiri). Surface noise is noticeable but oddly enough not as heavy
as in the Van Beinum Elegy. To compensate, the music-making is dominated
by a sense of unwavering concentration from all involved which almost had
me warming to Gerontius (a work much-lauded which I know I should
like but which for me has never 'caught fire') and the most touching performance
of Sospiri I have ever heard - a strangely un-Elgarian piece - almost
Sibelian. The magic of this piece is not moderated substantially by the higher
The major piece is the symphony in Boult's most impassioned version before
the deathly reputation of Elgar doyen began to settle on his shoulders. The
tender ghost of the bars at 9.23-9.35 in the first movement is done as well
as I have ever heard it. The Larghetto professes considerable feeling although
Boult's reticence is still apparent when measured against Elgar's own performance
and certainly against Handley's or Solti's. The Rondo dashes and yearns
satisfyingly but its impact is robbed somewhat by the 1944 vintage sound.
The finale has as much rippling fire (try the off-beat hammer punctuated
swing of the great tune - brilliantly handled), lava flow and lightning as
I have ever heard from Boult.
Over the years I have heard all five Boult Elgar 2s. The Pye LPO (1951),
Waverley, Scottish National Orchestra (1963), LPO Lyrita in 1966 and the
broader sleepy sweep of the final 1976 EMI version. The 1944 is by my
recollection the best of the four but this is not to say that there are not
more fierily engaged performances: Solti being outstanding and in very good
1970s Decca sound. Solti often convinces you he is teetering on the edge
emotionally whereas Boult knows where the edge is and holds a mirror over
it without stepping close to the brink.
This set - superbly priced - is a solidly enjoyable addition to any Elgarian's
shelf and casts a loving and cliché-shaking vision of how it was to
discover Elgar on disc during the 1930s and 1950s.
Van Beinum in particular was a major discovery for me and I am so grateful
to Beulah for opening that door. Similar thanks are in order for restoring
the Collins Intro and Allegro. Let us also celebrate Boult's matchless
performance of Sospiri also. Utterly memorable.
LEWIS FOREMAN's Reviews reprinted in slightly revised form
from 1995/96 issues of the British Music Society newsletter.
ELGAR Falstaff, Op. 68 (1913); Introduction and Allegro, Op.
47 (1905); Serenade for Strings, Op. 20 (1892). LSO; New Symphony
Orchestra Strings, Anthony Collins. Beulah 1PD15
Anthony Collins, a conductor and composer who has been sadly forgotten, and
ill deserves oblivion, was for many years a stalwart of the record catalogue
for his Sibelius as for his Elgar, and in both composers he was something
of a pioneer.
His sympathetic and idiomatic Falstaff, recorded in 1954, was long
the only version in my collection, valuable not only for its sweep as for
its detail and lightness of touch. Ultimately it was relegated for its less
good sound than later versions. Elgarians who have forgotten it will revisit
it with pleasure in this CD transfer, and it certainly deserves its niche
for Collins' understanding view of the work.
The Introduction and Allegro and even more the Serenade for
Strings are worthwhile, but do not challenge the great growth in the catalogue
since they first appeared in the 1950s. Unlike the van Beinum collection
this is rather short value at just under 59 minutes, but if the prospect
of Falstaff rekindles old memories you will not be disappointed. ©
ELGAR Cockaigne, Op. 40 (1901); Cello Concerto Op. 85 (1919); Wand
of Youth Suites 1 & 2, Op. 1A/B (1907/8); Elegy for strings
and harp Op. 58 (1909). Anthony Pini (cello), LPO, Eduard van Beinum. Beulah
These reissues takes one back. There was a time when the Collins
Falstaff and the Pini Cello Concerto were, if not the only available
versions, at least strong contenders in a small field. It was Anthony Pini's
performance when on 10" LP or 78s, in the early 1950s that successfully tilted
a lance at what some then felt to be the inauthentic performance of Casals.
In fact it is a poised straightforward performance, though with a lot of
presence on the cello which, probably because it was one of the last 78
recordings, is balanced quite forward of the orchestra.
These are, of course, examples of the celebrated Decca ffrr recordings, and
even where there is intrusive surface noise the presence of the music is
very good. The Cello Concerto was recorded on 14 May 1949 and 12 April 1950.
The booklet quotes its issue as a 10" LP, LX 3023, but it was also on 78s
(AX 416-9) and some of the surface noise here sounds remarkably like a 78.
I wonder what the source was.
The surfaces of the 78s of the van Beinum First Wand of Youth Suite
were heavy, and some of that is still audible despite digital processing.
However, the music is vividly caught and the performance is sympathetic and
goes with a swing. The second suite does not have the surfaces of the first
suite (it was recorded a year later) but it also has a more shut-in acoustic.
The Elegy recorded on 13 May 1949 has a remarkably high level of surface
for its date, and while it's a lovely performance, only those with long memories
will want to play it frequently I fear. But nevertheless here is nearly 78
minutes of music. Good value if you are in the market for this: a splendid
reminder of van Beinum as a conductor soon after the war. © Lewis
ELGAR Symphony No. 2; Gerontius Prelude; Sospiri, Op. 70.
This is a splendidly virile performance of the Elgar Second Symphony by the
conductor who established the piece in the repertoire after the First World
War. The first of, I think, five recordings by him. If you do not have it
snap it up now. But for those who have the EMI reissue (on CDH 7 63134 2)
with, incidentally two additional Boult reissues from 78s, this is not such
The EMI version gave us over 77 minutes of music, Beulah only give us 66.
The addition of, say, Introduction and Allegro or Chanson de
Matin/Nuit, would have made this distinctive from the earlier reissue
and better value.
Beulah's transfers are notably bright and very much to my taste; I would
rather have some crackle than lose any of the original ambience. In this
I find them marginally preferable to the EMI sound, but there is practically
nothing in it. Lewis Foreman
Elgar Cello Concerto A. Pini/Van Beinum/LPO 2PD15 [6.38],[4.36],[4.24],[10.41]
Elgar Cockaigne Overture Van Beinum/LPO 2PD15 [12.55]
Elgar Elegy for String Orchestra Van Beinum/LPO 2PD15 [4.30]
Elgar Falstaff - Symphonic Study Anthony Collins/LSO 1PD15 [34.09]
Elgar Introduction and Allego For String Quartet And Orchestra Anthony
Collins/New SO 1PD15 [13.24]
Elgar Serenade in E Minor Anthony Collins/New SO 1PD15 [10.58]
Elgar Sospiri Adrian Boult/BBCSO 3PD15 [4.15]
Elgar Symphony No 2 Adrian Boult/BBCSO 3PD15 [16.32],[14.13],[8.03],[13.45]
Elgar The Dream Of Gerontius - Prelude Adrian Boult/BBCSO 3PD15 [9.27]
Elgar Wand of Youth Suite No 1 Van Beinum/LPO 2PD15 [19.00]
Elgar Wand of Youth Suite No 2 Van Beinum/LPO 2PD15 [16.04]
Elgar boxed set should be available from UK shops by the end of
October. Details at:
Editions Audiovisuel BEULAH, publishers of videos,CDs,
stock shots, sound library, film and tape archiving.
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