Elgar: Symphony No. 1 in A flat; Cockaigne Overture

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Elgar
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Symphony No. 1 in A flat; Cockaigne Overture
PERFORMER: LSO/Jeffrey Tate
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54414 2 DDD
As we know from his recent recording of the Second Symphony, Jeffrey Tate’s view of Elgar is nothing if not spacious. Here he announces this right from the opening, where the glorious tune which dominates the work is played considerably more slowly than the marked andante. The Allegro is launched into with greater urgency, but slows down unnecessarily at the tune’s reappearance. Tate’s rubato strikes me as rather artificial: certainly his sense of the ebb and flow of this movement can’t compare (how could it?) with the composer’s own, as demonstrated in Volume 1 of EMI’s Elgar Edition.

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The Scherzo and slow movement are more successful, with the LSO’s brass on good form. The slowness of the Adagio is not terribly kind to the thin tone of the strings; but in general they are given little help by the recording, which lacks presence and detail. The finale suffers from a lack of incisiveness, and Tate is unwilling to broaden the tempo for the final appearance of the tune, which crowns the symphony’s conclusion.

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Cockaigne is given a rather ponderous treatment, though it’s well enough played. Again, it’s partly the fault of the unfocused sound, but I found the performance a bit lethargic. Stephen Maddock