Elgar: Symphony No. 2; Sea Pictures

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Elgar
LABELS: Argo
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Sea Pictures
PERFORMER: Della Jones (mezzo-soprano)RPO/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: 443 321-2 DDD
Authenticity, of a kind, has now reached as far as Elgar. For this new recording, Charles Mackerras has studied the composer’s own recordings of the Second Symphony and copied some 500 unwritten glissandi into the string parts. The RPO’s playing of them (on modern instruments, of course) is fairly unobtrusive, though occasionally a lack of exact co-ordination between players gives an untidy feel with which a more nourished string tone might have been better able to cope. Another pseudo-authenticity is the organ pedal dubbed in (from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge) at the climax of the finale, again an addition to the published score, but one sanctioned by the composer.

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For all its seeming over-attention to detail, this is a highly successful performance of the symphony, catching both the mellow nostalgia of the slow movement and the wit of the scurrying scherzo, though the orchestral playing cannot quite match that of the LPO (a classic recording with Vernon Handley on budget-price CFP) or the BBC Symphony Orchestra (Andrew Davis on Teldec). But what makes this an even more worthwhile issue is the stunning performance of the song cycle Sea Pictures from Della Jones, an impassioned, superbly accompanied account to rival the classic Janet Baker/Barbirolli recording (EMI). Matthew Rye