19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Top class Elgar 2,
This review is from: Elgar: Symphony 1, 2, In the South, Pomp & Circumstance (Audio CD)
I concur in all respects with the comments of "a music fan", as far as Symphony 2 is concerned (I don't have Sym 1 - I bought the 2nd when it first appeared on its own). As much as I love the sounds Elgar makes, his symphonies never convinced me as symphonic wholes until I heard this recording. Without the score in front of me I have no idea whether Sinopoli is adhering to marked tempi and the composer's instructions, but for the first time in my experience (aside from a superb live performance I heard from Andrew Davis with the Toronto Symphony back in the 70s) Symphony 2 comes across as more than a losely-connected series of events. This is certainly a warm, romantic reading but it doesn't wallow. English conductors tend to project Elgar's bluff, almost soldierly qualities as if all his music is an extension of the Pomp and Circumstance marches (I'm familiar with recordings of both symphonies from those by Elgar himself, through Barbirolli, Boult, Andrew Davis to Vernon Handley). Sinopoli gives us a very different, more introspective view. The notes with my version are illuminating. The Larghetto of Symphony 2 was composed long before the death of Edward VII. In fact the work owes far more to Elgar's trip to Venice than any Edwardian nostalgia, the swirling opening of the third movement inspired by pigeons in Piazza San Marco.
Sound is excellent, and the Philharmonia play like angels.
If you've ever harboured the sneaking suspicion that reviews in the English music press are manifestations of entrenched bias and preference, try this recording on for size. You might also look for the Zukerman/Barenboim Elgar V.C., far preferable in my opinion than any of the Kennedy versions.
Incidentally, "a music fan", there was a version of Elgar 2 by Svetlanov, I believe with a Russian orchestra, back in the days of vinyl. It received somewhat tepid reviews from the usual magazines, surprise, surprise.