Elgar: The Elgar Edition, Volume 2

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Elgar
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: The Elgar Edition, Volume 2
PERFORMER: Yehudi Menuhin (violin)Philharmonic Choir, LSO/Royal Albert Hall Orchestra/Edward Elgar
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 7 54564 2 ADD
Apart from the celebrated Violin Concerto recording with the 16-year-old Menuhin, these performances are new to CD. One is making its first appearance in any format – the charming Serenade mauresque from the Three Characteristic Pieces, Op. 10. As with Volume 1, the sound quality is not always wonderful – there is some surface noise, and occasional distortion. But on the whole these recordings, made between 1926 and 1932, have worn well.

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More importantly, so have the performances. The playing is sometimes rough-and-ready, but the composer’s presence can be felt in every bar. In the Enigma Variations, for example, he brings his ‘friends pictured within’ to life more vividly than any other interpreter: ‘Nimrod’ sounds affectionate rather than elegiac, and ‘Dorabella’ is quite exquisite.

The concerto is also very fine. Both conductor and soloist have a flexible, highly expressive approach, yet the piece never sounds sentimental. And among the lighter pieces, who else could make the Nutcracker-like reminiscences in the Wand of Youth and Nursery Suites sound so childlike and yet so knowing? The patriotic songs are well sung by a highly disciplined choir, and Chanson de matin is very touching.

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What is unmistakable throughout is Elgar’s amazingly expressive rubato and phrasing: string lines bulge and swell, and speeds never stay the same for more than a few bars. For the Elgar enthusiast, then, this is another fascinating document: look out for Volume 3 next year.Stephen Maddock