Elgar: Falstaff; In the South; Froissart

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Elgar
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Falstaff; In the South; Froissart
PERFORMER: LSO/Jeffrey Tate
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54415 2 DDD
Elgar’s Falstaff is a proud, good-humoured, larger-than-life knight, not the amorous figure of fun portrayed by Verdi: Henry IV rather than The Merry Wives of Windsor. This Falstaff needs careful handling, as the composer’s superb 1931 recording makes clear. Jeffrey Tate is remarkably successful in bringing the old fellow to life and, indeed, in putting him to sleep before the Dream Interlude, with its exquisitely nostalgic violin solo. This is a performance full of character and contrast, and it finds the LSO in true virtuoso form: excellent string playing and a suitably gruff bassoon for Falstaff’s protestations.

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If Tate’s Elgar has previously seemed opulent and expansive, these are just the qualities needed for In the South, Elgar’s nearest approach to the sound-world of Richard Strauss. In fact, Tate’s reading is surprisingly urgent, right from the opening rush of orchestral blood. Perhaps the beautiful viola solo, the ‘canto popolare’, could be a little warmer, but this is a very fine account indeed. Compared with these two mature masterpieces, the early concert overture Froissart sounds like a poor relation, but it’s done with a good deal of flair. The recording is spacious but clear. Stephen Maddock