Elgar: Falstaff; Wand of Youth Suite No. 1;Wand of Youth Suite No. 2

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LABELS: Classics for Pleasure
WORKS: Falstaff; Wand of Youth Suite No. 1;Wand of Youth Suite No. 2
CATALOGUE NO: 5 73722 2 ADD/DDD Reissue (1979, 1989)
Handley’s was the performance through which I came to know and love Elgar’s melancholy Sir John, and two decades on from its LP release, it remains the handsomest of Falstaffs. Dressed in the cloth-of-gold of Elgar’s opulent scoring for lower strings and brass, this knight is a remarkably nimble turner of tight corners. He may not always share the poignant nostalgia of the lovable Barbirolli version, but the very unsentimentality of the performance can still bring a tear to the eye through the sheer refinement of distant viola-sighs in Justice Shallow’s orchard or the hazy tenderness of deathbed reminiscences. After the warmly lined woodwind colours and full-blown opulence of this stunningly engineered performance, the relative reticence of the Liverpool Wand of Youth takes some aural adjustment; but here, too, Handley’s sprightly sense of the right tempo characterises fairies, giants, little bells and tame and wild bears to perfection. David Nice