The Elgar Edition
The complete Electrical Recordings of Sir Edward Elgar.
EMI Classics 099909 569423
The reviewer Rodney Greenfield once famously wrote on reviewing Carlos Klieber’s performance of Beethoven’s fifth, “ it was as if Homer had descended from the heavens and was reading from his own Iliad “, - well, with this box set, we get as close to the reality of that statement as will ever be.
Elgar was considered the premier composer and musician of the British Empire for more than 30 years and although that connection marred his reputation for some years it is now recognised that he was in fact a great composer and no other has ever been so well served by a record company over the ensuing decades than EMI.
This box set contains every electrical recording Elgar made and includes the famous recording of the Violin Concerto with the 16 year old Yehudi Menuhin and two very rare recordings of Elgar speaking as he rehearses the 2nd Symphony in 1927 and opens the Abbey road studios in November 1931.
Yes , these performances are all in mono and hail from the dawn of electrical recording but the sound is in many cases excellent for it’s time and the EMI engineers have done wonders in cleaning the pops and clicks from the original masters and showing the real clarity that Elgar gets from his orchestras.
His conducting of the slow movement of the 1st symphony is superb, the LSO play it almost like chamber music and you can imagine the Fireflies hovering over the banks of the Severn with the outline of Worcester Cathedral in the distant heat haze on a summer’s afternoon – magical.
There are too many superb moments in this set for inclusion here, suffice to say that none of the performances disappoint and many are a revelation. Elgar was principle conductor of the LSO for the 1904 / 1905 London season and was no slouch on the rostrum, the LSO provide the backbone of these performances and given that many were recorded in long takes with little or no editing they show what an ensemble they were then as now.
All Elgar’s major orchestral works are here together with extracts from The Dream of Gerontius some Elgar miniatures and the man himself playing the piano in his Five Piano Improvisations.
The performances of his concert overtures Froissart, Cockaigne and In the South are magnificent and stand with any performances made since and it is fascinating to hear him conduct his own variation in the Enigma Variations ( EDU.)
For the cost of a single full price CD you get nine full of splendour. Enjoy!