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.
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.
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