Elgar: Symphony No. 2 in E flat

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in E flat
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Edward Downes
This is a real bargain. A first-class, thoughtful performance: exulting, exciting and sensitive with a tremendous breadth and depth of sound. Although not quite up to the brilliance of the full-price Andrew Davis reading with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, on Teldec, this certainly qualifies as a front runner in the bargain issues. Downes, with the BBC Philharmonic, has great rhythmic drive and the majesty and sweep of the score are thrillingly realised. Both Davis and Downes reveal fresh insights. Davis, for instance, accentuates the string writing in the opening movement episode described as ‘a love scene in a garden at night interrupted by ghostly memories’, so that you really feel its chill and threat. His final climax in the Larghetto is breathtaking too. Downes’s Larghetto reveals all its subtlety and beauty and the climaxes are terraced very well, leading to a very moving final peroration. The famous hammering dissonances in the Rondo are, here, remarkably suggestive of the passage of tanks amid shell bursts, as if Elgar was peering over the abyss at the approaching Great War. And the closing movement march is, at first, correspondingly more measured, more reflective. The coda is glorious. A confident recommendation. Ian Lace