Sea Pictures, Op. 37; The Music Makers, Op. 69
Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-soprano); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
Onyx ONYX4206 66:07 mins
Barenboim, Solti, Previn, Slatkin – there’s a small but select coterie of non-British conductors who have recorded Elgar with distinction. Vasily Petrenko has recently added himself to it. This is the fourth release in his Elgar series with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and it probes interestingly into less familiar territory.
Petrenko’s The Music Makers makes a compelling case for a work often dismissed as navel-gazing, second-rate Elgar. He catches vividly the restless, uneasy quality of the orchestral introduction, and finds anger and defiance in an explosive ‘empire-building’ episode. The Liverpool choir is excellent throughout, mingling fieriness with precision in the big moments, and bringing a tender introspection to the work’s subdued coda. Liverpudlian mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge sings the solo part with ripe-toned plenitude, and also delivers a richly nuanced account of Sea Pictures, avoiding any hint of Victorian unctuousness.
Petrenko’s accompaniments are both flowingly purposeful and attentive to Rudge’s phrasing, with characterful playing from the orchestra. ‘The Swimmer’ shows all the performers at their best, in a driving, wind-whipped interpretation.
The famous Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 provides an exuberant encore to another strong instalment in this impressively fresh and idiomatic series.