COMPOSERS: Edward Elgar
LABELS: Hallé CD
ALBUM TITLE: Elgar
WORKS: Sea Pictures; Polonia; Pomp and Circumstances Marches Nos 1-5
PERFORMER: Alice Coote (mezzo); Hallé/Mark Elder
Alice Coote is a formidable artist, but not everybody warms to her edgy, truth-stripped-bare expressive style. My feelings tend to be mixed. The way she peels away the varnish of received interpretation can be thrilling, even in Elgar’s Sea Pictures. If she intends to demonstrate that ‘Sea Slumber Song’ isn’t just a cosy lullaby with wave effects, she succeeds. The way she scoops out the descent at ‘shadowy sand’ puts many other mezzos to shame. At the other extreme her ascent to the final high A is blistering – one can feel the exhausted swimmer’s strained exultation. Against this, though, are passages where I wish she’d just enjoy the ebb and flow of the music instead of working so hard at each word. The steely frown of concentration isn’t perhaps the best way to approach ‘Where Corals Lie’.
Mark Elder’s handling of the orchestra, however, is wonderful, and where necessary discreet: to bring out colours and textures while making sure the voice remains centre-stage is no mean feat. He then takes the reins splendidly in Polonia and the five Pomp and Circumstance Marches. It isn’t often in the latter that one is made aware of how felicitous Elgar’s orchestration is, and yet again he balances that skilfully with the requisite sense of grand public occasion.