WORKS: Serenade No. 1; In the South (Alassio)
PERFORMER: Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: SK 57973 DDD
Lightness of touch is not high on the list of Riccardo Muti’s virtues. Of course, this isn’t a great drawback for In the South, one of Elgar’s most forceful works. The opening rush of orchestral blood works well, and Muti’s players invest the proceedings with a good deal of passion. I managed to ignore the dead, unatmospheric recording during the Elgar, but it makes the Brahms Serenade rather heavy going, not least because the balance seems so bottom heavy. The whole impression is a bit charmless, though there’s much fine individual playing.
Marriner’s approach to the Enigma Variations could be termed ‘Classical’; balance and order are everything, and the Academy responds with typically immaculate playing. I might have welcomed a bit more passion at times: ‘Troyte’ is rather tame, and ‘Nimrod’, for all its breadth of phrasing, remains curiously earthbound. But there are plenty of good things, and the clear recording enables us to hear all the detail. Marriner’s light touch is highly appropriate for the Nutcracker-like magic of The Wand of Youth suites. He is about the same age as the composer was when he recorded these delightful works; both men recapture the innocence of childhood without embarrassing sentimentality. Stephen Maddock