This Naxos double CD is effectively the original single CD `The Best of Elgar' expanded to include more of the composer's work, then attractively packaged with new artwork and a card insert sleeve, and the word 'Very' added to the title.
The constraints of trying to squeeze a lifetime of works onto two CDs, while better than the single release, inevitably causes some of the popular works such as `Enigma Variations', `Pomp and Circumstance Marches' and the `Cello Concerto' to be shortened to the most familiar part of these works. In this case we have (predictably) `Nimrod', `March No. 1 and 4' and `Adagio-Moderato' respectively.
Although unavoidable, this is slightly disappointing, for there is a lot of relatively unheard and unplayed Elgar music waiting to be discovered or rediscovered. One such example, absent from this CD, being the delightful `Nursery Suite' composed during the last years of Elgar's life and dedicated to the younger members of the Royal family of that time.
There are a wide variety of performers and conductors appearing on this selection but the recordings, as to be expected from Naxos, are consistently good.
If this Naxos release widens the appeal and appreciation of Elgar's music then surely it will have served its purpose. As a stand-alone CD representing some of the great works of Elgar this is one of the best (or `Very Best'), and if it inspires the listener to search further it points the way to the many other good CD releases available which will provide a more complete picture.
For further listening try the box sets 'Elgar - Orchestral Works' and `Elgar - Choral Works' on the EMI Classics label.
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My advice is to listen to this on the internet before you buy it. Whilst some pieces are upbeat even jovial at times others can appear solum. I think it its a brave attempt to illustrate his extensive catalogue but even so this is for the fan rather than the curious and unfamiliar.