Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma); In the South; Coronation March

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COMPOSERS: Elgar
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma); In the South; Coronation March
PERFORMER: Bournemouth SO/George Hurst
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553564
No English composer has composed an orchestral work finer than the Enigma Variations, and each new performance seems somehow to uncover another aspect of its limitless imaginative variety. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra plays this music frequently in concert, and the players therefore have the music ‘under their fingers’. The result is that instrumental solos are splendidly assured, ensemble passages are precise and climaxes full-bodied. To George Hurst, a seasoned Elgarian, goes the credit for the cogency of the whole conception, since his performance is far more than the sum of the parts. The wistful, truly enigmatic, nature of the theme is conveyed at the opening, and the special personality of each variation emerges in turn.

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The Coronation March, another example of Elgar’s penchant for creating ceremonial music of lasting value, also shows his complete mastery of the orchestra. This performance of In the South, however, proves less satisfying, largely because the recorded sound fails to provide an appropriate resonance. The opening sweep consequently lacks majesty, and the violins in particular do not convey the urgency and intensity Elgar demands. The more intimate music at the heart of the work is much more successful, and again the solo contributions are distinguished. Terry Barfoot