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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A performance that gets to the heart of Elgar's concerto., 7 Jun 2007
By 
Frank Beck (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Elgar: Violin Concerto (Audio CD)
Elgar played the violin himself, and this concerto is his greatest gift to his fellow violinists. When he composed the work in 1909 and 1910, there were already many concertos that gave room for virtuosic playing. Elgar did something different: he created a score that does not so much show what the violin can do as reveal all that it can say.

Here the solo violin yearns, rejoices, pleads and consoles, and then, in one of the most original cadenzas ever written for any instrument, it takes up many of the previous themes and views each familiar melody in an utterly new way. Basil Maine, Elgar's first biographer, said it best when he remarked that most cadenzas call for the soloist to step into the limelight. Elgar instead asks the player to step back into the twilit world of deepest introspection. In the hands of the right instrumentalist, the cadenza will have an audience holding its breath and the closing coda will provide a thrilling release.

Kennedy shows from his first entrance that he is at one with the concerto's elusive spirit. The first movement allegro is urgent and compelling. The andante unfolds as a gentle nocturne that rises to moments of more intimate intensity. Kennedy then brings a bracing lyricism to the third movement, which seems to be moving inexorably to a conventional conclusion when the orchestra retreats and leaves him and his violin, with only the frailest string accompaniment, to their musings. As Elgar wrote to the concerto's chief inspiration, Alice Stuart Wortley, 'the music sings of memories and hope.'

The first-rank recordings of this work stretch over nearly 80 years, beginning with Albert Sammons' landmark 1929 performance, and including two studio recordings by Yehudi Menuhin, one with the composer conducting. This interpretation by Kennedy, accompanied with careful shaping and loving attention to detail by Vernon Handley, belongs in that exalted company.

I would recommend this disc as an ideal introduction to one of Elgar's finest works. If you already know the concerto from other recordings, Kennedy and Handley will open your ears to new wonders.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine performance but now available in a greatly improved, and cheaper, remastered version, 31 Dec 2013
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Elgar: Violin Concerto (Audio CD)
This disc has now been remastered to great effect and is far superior as sound to the earlier issue advertised here
The review for the same performance but in the remastered version is copy-pasted as follows:

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The new remastered version of this disc

This disc couples Handley's Introduction and Allegro from 1983 with Kennedy's first recording of the concerto from 1984. Both originally appeared on budget priced EMI discs with the concerto achieving near cult status at that time. The Introduction and Allegro was originally coupled with Falstaff and is still in my collection. The concerto was finally deleted because of inferior sound which did not compete with the several later recordings of note from other violinists including himself with Rattle. This remastered version has greatly improved the sound by adding considerable presence, depth of field etc. and so once more, this disc enters my catalogue as a serious contender.

Getting the additional Introduction and Allegro out of the way first, all that needs to be said is that Handley gives a strong and idiomatic reading along the lines of Boult. The recording is very good and improved as above when compared to the previous issue.

Handley is a key factor when considering the two versions of this concerto by Kennedy. He has the full measure of the orchestral requirements and is not distracted from maintaining the forward momentum by investigating interesting sidelines en route. This in turn is an encouragement for Kennedy to keep moving, except of course, at the points where there is a genuine need to adopt a more relaxed pace. The extended coda in the finale is certainly allowed to develop without the need for forward pacing for example. As both Kennedy and Rattle are inclined to enjoy the moment rather than the arrival, there is a tendency for the later performance to lose drive at times. It is by comparing these two performances that one becomes more aware of these slight, but significant, differences. In general terms my preference would be, once more, for the older version now that the sound has been improved.

However, there are now several other good and modern recordings to consider and that was not the case when this disc made its first appearance. Of particular note are the recordings by Shaham, Ehnes and Zehetmair as well as those by Menuhin. Others also value Znaider highly as well as Tasmin Little. Both of those have been included in my collection for a while but as space and listening time are considerations they have now departed, still leaving me with five versions. This is where collecting becomes both a pleasure and a problem. How does one rank such fine players all at the top of their game and all slightly different? The answer is that one cannot. The best that can be offered is that any of these will give enormous satisfaction and final choice is likely to be a very personal decision.

I would suggest that this remastered Kennedy version deserves to be considered as a strong front runner. Zehetmair makes a very contrasting alternative that will be thought provoking at the least. Ehnes follows a middle path between these two. Menuhin's original recording seems very old to me, but I grew up with his klater account aided by Boult. That probably defined my thinking about this concerto and I still enjoy it but those unimpeded by such a first experience would probably opt for one of the newer versions.

If all this seems to lead nowhere I will suggest that, if in doubt and with limited time to investigate, purchasers should find that this remastered Kennedy version would be an excellent choice and will stand up well to comparisons should they be made at a later date.

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Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)

I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Thank you (UK review)

I’d also add to this. When you in particular review a particular CD, I pay pretty close attention. I would say the characteristics of your reviews I value the most are the detail and general sense of balance and fairness that comes across. That's a great help. Thanks for taking the time on your reviews. (US review)

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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 11 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Elgar: Violin Concerto (Audio CD)
Yes, it met my expectattions.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate, heartfelt, compelling music, 15 May 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Elgar: Violin Concerto (Audio CD)
This is a beautifully interpreted performance by Nigel Kennedy, and the music simply speaks for itself. Elgar at his best.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nigel Kennedy, 17 Nov 2013
By 
Rene (Stevenage, Herts United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Elgar: Violin Concerto (Audio CD)
This version was played on Desert Island Discs featuring Benny Green. Nigel has recorded this more recently but I chose the one played on the programme
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving performance - the best, 28 July 2009
By 
Justin Lusty "Justin Lusty" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Elgar: Violin Concerto (Audio CD)
This is surely Kennedy's finest recording. A beautiful and moving performance from start to finish. Conducted by the wonderful Vernon Handley who passed away this last August. A classic for Elgar lovers.
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