Elgar: Violin Concerto; Enigma Variations

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: EMI Great Recordings of the Century
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Enigma Variations
PERFORMER: Yehudi Menuhin (violin); LSO, Royal Albert Hall Orchestra/Edward Elgar
CATALOGUE NO: CDM 5 66979 2 ADD mono Reissue (1932, 1926)
This 1932 recording amply deserves its reputation as a classic. The sound quality is obviously antique, but it is easily good enough not to be a distraction. The rapport between the teenage Menuhin and the septuagenarian composer is remarkable. Elgar gave himself considerable freedoms with his own music, holding the tempi back in the more luscious sections to give Menuhin time to indulge extravagant portamenti and trills, but at others cracking on with a somewhat peremptory bombast. The 1926 recording of the Enigma Variations is equally interesting but less satisfactory. Modern performances weave these idiosyncratic portraits into a coherent musical tapestry, whereas Elgar seems too conscious of the underlying personalities for the music itself to enjoy the freedom it needs. Christopher Lambton