LABELS: Elgar Editions
WORKS: Nursery Suite; National Anthem
PERFORMER: LSO/Edward Elgar; Royal College of Music Junior Department SO/Mark Elder
CATALOGUE NO: EECD 008
The comparison is intriguing on several levels. Sir Edward Elgar wasn’t as experienced or as technically accomplished a conductor as Sir Mark Elder. Like a lot of composers interpreting their own work he can sometimes seem in a bit of hurry – though that might also have something to do with the modern taste for taking slow music really slowly.
Certainly Elder gives the impression of lingering more lovingly over ‘The Sad Doll’ or the opening of ‘Dreaming’. On the other hand Elder’s ‘The Wagon Passes’ feels more powerful and purposeful, even though he takes exactly the same time over it as Elgar. Yet often it is Elgar who seems to find the tiny nuances and expressive inflections few others have been able to match.
And who could resist the opportunity to hear the composer’s friend and biographer WH Reed play the solo violin part in ‘Envoy’? The 1931 recording does sound remarkably clear and rounded in this transfer. Again it’s fascinating to hear it beside an excellent modern recording – in some ways we’ve learned such a lot about the process; in others the sound technicians of yesteryear knew it all way in advance.
The Elgar version remains the benchmark, unless you really must have spruce up-to-date sound – in which case the Elder will do as well as any. Either way, you can’t lose with this disc. Stephen Johnson