Elgar: Cello Concerto; Enigma Variations; Froissart

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WORKS: Cello Concerto; Enigma Variations; Froissart
PERFORMER: Robert Cohen (cello)RPO/Charles Mackerras
Robert Cohen first recorded the Elgar Concerto (with Del Mar and the LPO) when still in his teens. Now, as did Jacqueline du Pre, he has returned to the work with another conductor and orchestra. This new version is not markedly different, but in some respects Cohen’s insight into the work is now greater. It’s a serious, weighty account, with first-rate support from Mackerras and the RPO. Fans of the famous du Pre/ Barbirolli performance will probably find Cohen’s reading understated (though her larger-than-life interpretation is not to everyone’s taste, of course); and his tonal palette cannot compare with Steven Isserlis’s beautifully judged account (on Virgin). Cohen’s sound is not helped by the rather harsh recording, and this also detracts from Mackerras’s expert reading of the Enigma Variations. Again this is a re-encounter: his 1986 LPO performance (EMI) was highly praised, and this new version finds the RPO playing at least as well. With the predictable exception of’Nimrod’ (considerably slower, as always), Mackerras’s tempi are similar to the composer’s own, though his rubato is a good deal less elastic. Froissart is scarcely the equal of these two masterpieces, but it too receives a fine performance. Stephen Maddock