Serenade for Strings
Elgar’s earliest masterpiece shows him already a master of writing for strings, with an infectiously lilting first movement, and a contemplative slow movement.
Sinfonia of London/John Barbirolli
EMI 567 2402
Though the ‘Enigma’ title continues to intrigue scholars, this series of musical portraits of Elgar’s wife and friends remain ever-vivid, especially the noble ‘Nimrod’.
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Adrian Boult
EMI 764 0152
Dream of Gerontius
Richard Lewis, Janet Baker; Hallé Choir & Orchestra/John Barbirolli
EMI 391 9782
Symphony No. 2
The more flamboyant of Elgar’s two finished symphonies, the Second characteristically contrasts opening swagger with a sense of brooding apprehension and reflection, and includes a nightmarish whirlwind for a scherzo.
Hallé Orchestra/John Barbirolli
EMI 968 9242
Elgar’s final masterpiece, written in the aftermath of the First World War and shortly before the death of his wife Alice, is noble and restrained yet unmistakably expresses grief for an irretrievably lost era.
Jacqueline du Pré; LSO/John Barbirolli
EMI 562 8862
Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.