Elgar/Payne: Symphony No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Elgar/Payne
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Bournemouth SO/Paul Daniel
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554719
Just as the older generation of Elgar conductors (Boult, Barbirolli, Sargent et al) differed quite markedly in their interpretations of the First and Second Symphonies, so it seems that today’s Elgarian maestros will differ over the Third, in Anthony Payne’s amazing elaboration of the sketches. (Incidentally, although Naxos publicity claims that Payne has ‘made some modifications to the score’ following ‘further research into the sketches in the British Library’, he tells me this is not the case and that the only changes are minor adjustments to the piccolo part.) Paul Daniel’s interpretation is lither than Andrew Davis’s on NMC – and now Davis has conducted it more often, I suspect his own approach must also differ.

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Daniel is more dramatic, especially in the first movement, but at the same time indulges the lyricism in a more truly Elgarian fashion. The ‘elasticity’ which Elgar wanted in his music is here more evident than in Davis’s reading and the movement (indeed the whole work) benefits from the brightness and rhythmic suppleness of the orchestra’s playing. The scherzo is beautifully light of foot. But where Daniel is especially impressive is in his account of the Adagio which, in its intensity, comes nearer to what Elgar himself might have made of it.

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Payne’s hardest task was with the finale and it is perhaps there that one senses most acutely that this is an ‘elaboration’, albeit a marvellous one. Daniel seems totally convinced, however, and puts the music over superbly. At budget price, this is superlative value. Michael Kennedy