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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 21 November 2010
Fans of Tasmin Little--especially those of us on the other side of "the pond" who cannot easily attend her concerts--must have been overjoyed to see she had recorded the Elgar violin concerto. My copy went straight from the mailbox to the player. I think a prior reviewer, Mr. Voogd, has the essence of the matter completely right. This is an undemonstrative performance that in its quiet way adds up to something gigantic. The piece encompasses a paradox reminiscent of those grand canvasses which are also intimate and personal. Tasmin Little, it seems, has a personality that uniquely fits Elgar's conception. She has a large, capacious technique and also a fine understanding of the composer's heart. Rather than subsume her own personality or use it for the sake of display, she matches it to the composer's expressiveness. The result, perhaps, is a recording that will make Tasmin Little synonymous with Elgar's concerto in something of the way that Elisabeth Schwarzkopf is identified with Richard Strauss's Marschallin. Comparisons are not always helpful, but I suspect that the best recordings of this concerto might be the first of the electrics--Albert Sammons with Henry Wood, in the late 'twenties--and this one.

A fascinating pendant to the complete recording is a reconstruction of the accompanied cadenza, in the final movement, that Elgar created for an acoustic recording of the concerto in 1916. The present performance by Ms. Little and orchestra serves to show --in case anyone ever doubted it-- that the cadenza is the heart and soul of the concerto. I only wish that the producers of this CD had added a separate band in the full concerto recording to let one listen from the start of the cadenza. That aside, the Chandos presentation--including recorded sound, informative booklet and graphic design--is in every way examplary.

If, after the concerto and its effective encore, you've got enough emotional space for more music, the interlude for violin & orchestra from "The Crown of India" is most agreeable and is lovingly performed; it ends too soon. The finale, "Polonia," a tribute to Poland written during the First World War, is out of character with the rest of the music; a squall of sound that will annoy your neighbors if you don't turn down the volume.

Fans of Elgar and of Tasmin Little will need no encouragement to get this concerto. I would simply say buy multiple copies, which in the holiday season will let you give something of extraordinary beauty for a modest price.
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This recording, made by Chandos in 2010, presents Elgar's fine concerto in a typically clear and full ranging sound. The violin balance is excellent although at first the violin seems just a little distant or lacking in sheer weight. This balance is actually far more realistic than the 'jumbo' violins we are distressingly treated to by many other companies. It also faithfully reproduces Tasmin Little's finely honed tonal palette which stands in clear contrast to some of the more muscular approaches. Those who have become enamoured of the Menuhin tonal characteristics may initially find this to be a little on the thin side. However that would be an unfortunate and mistaken reaction and one's ear quickly adjusts.

Tasmin Little provides an affectionate view of the many reflective passages in the concerto but never for a moment strays into emotionalism. The faster passages, and especially those involving double stopping at speed, are regularly delivered at speeds greater than is often the case. They are delivered with immaculate intonation and rhythmical control while often accelerating and this adds a considerable excitement to the reading. In many ways there are similarities here with the Kyung Wha Chung playing at the start of her meteoric career and nobody had a word to say about lack of tone or strength in her case. Neither should they in this.

There are, of course, many other fine performances now available as the concerto has now become fully accepted as one of the very greatest of the 20th century violin concertos and with this status has come increasing choice for the collector. I would suggest that Tasmin Little provides a fine and valid alternative version of the concerto to add to the following equally fine performances: I would suggest either of the two Kennedy recordings plus the ones by Ehnes, Gil Shaham, Thomas Zehetmair and, of course, Menuhin (with Boult) as being specially noteworthy and all capable of being considered as one of the very finest.

The fill-ups are not likely to be crucial. The interlude from the Crown of India features an attractive part for solo violin which is pleasant but not essential. Polonia, a late work and a tribute to Poland, could not sound less Polish as an inspiration. This is instead, a full-blown piece of Elgarian pomp and circumstance that I first came across on Boult's record of similar pieces. This is immeasurably finer both as a performance and as recorded sound. I personally like the music but I think it helps to forget the title!

In summary therefore, I would put Tasmin Little's performance on a par with those other performances of distinction as listed above but would not claim it to be the best any more than any of the others. (Can any performance own such a monopoly?). The fill-ups are both well done and include a particularly well delivered Polonia. For anyone interested in the unique program or this particular violinist I would therefore suggest that this disc is worth very serious consideration.
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on 8 November 2010
The first that came to my mind when listening to this (stunningly beautiful) recording was: mellow.
There lies grandeur and a certain `we'll not play it spectacular' atmosphere around this recording. I like it. It's the way I think Elgar was: a guy who liked to puzzle with one's feelings and could compose some most attractive music. So this is not a spectacular reading on the outside but on the inside it is and it is without any shortcomings. The pyrotechnics of the solo violin playing is great; the problem is that if you don't know how difficult it is for the violin you won't notice it and could think `oh another showpiece for the violin'. The way the orchestra plays and is recorded is very good. This is the way you can get an objective opinion of the SACD technique; this recording has depth and breathing room. Compare this with the awfully recorded SACD of Schmidt's symphony nr.4 on MDG and you know the Chandos engineers know what they do. The greatness of this recording lies in it's atmosphere and it's sound picture.
The Polonia on this CD has it all: an organ you can feel and brass which gives you the impression of presence without shattering the windows out of the house. I think it's one of those occasional Elgar pieces we won't hear very much but it's typically Elgar: professional. He has gone to many pains to give a detailed idea of the way he must have thought a Polish piece has to sound. So you get something like `A Englishmen in Warsaw'. I have a recording of this piece with a British orchestra under Panufnik which has a unbelievable false entry on the trumpets in the first 3 minutes but the trumpet players of the Scottish orchestra manage to get through although it doesn't sound very convincing all the way; more or less as if Ben Hur arrives 5 minutes late at the arena.
The bonus on this Cd is a lovingly reconstructed cadenza for the concerto which was composed for Marie Hall.

I'm sorry to say but I'd like to have a word with Chandos on the matter of design. Although I certainly agree the contents of this SACD must urge you to buy this concerto we in Holland say 'het oog wil ook wat' which means that the package must be as good as the contents. And sorry again but it's awful. It's my opinion that record companies mustn't sell violin-girls or sopranos as Playboy bunnies (like Jansen on Decca or Netrebko on DGG) but - how to put this mildly and polite? - middle of the road looking woman like Tasmin Little with an overdone lipstick and eyebrows and a cheap décolleté is not the way to present a disc like this. Second she has been photographed from above and the photographer must have said `smile picture' so Tasmin's neck looks like if it's broken. At the back of the CD you'll get a left arm... What is the use of it? Ran out of ideas?
The back of the booklet presents a picture of Andrew Davis: death metal design like Opeth's Ghost Reveries album. Print on the back: illegible: crème colours on brown. I'm 51 but it gave me some problems.
Chandos: if you want attention for your product use bright colours or a neutral but instantly attention seeking pictures like Dutton's series or the German CPO-label does.
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on 27 February 2012
I have at least 8 recordings of the Elgar concerto, but recently heard part of this one on the radio and was entranced by Tasmin Little's sound and by her musicianship. When I heard the cd I was even more bowled over. This is playing of the highest calibre, technically assured and beautifully expressive. At the risk of sounding like Goldilocks, it's just right! Miss Little has a relaxed vibrato which for me is exactly right. This cd has already given me enormous pleasure. If you love this piece, you'll love this cd. And the "Crown of India" interlude is a gem!
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on 16 December 2011
There is no need for me to add any further comments to endorse this marvellous performance but I would simply like to address Mr.Voogd by saying that he condemns 70% of all women to the ranks of the plain and unattractive when he describes Miss Little's looks as "middle of the road"! Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder but her English loveliness appeals to me, and I'm sure to many, and i welcome bright twinkly-eyed smile and concert dress cover design!
Anyway, concentrate on the music...it is wondrous and so is Miss Little's performance.
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on 29 December 2013
There have been several fine recordings of the Elgar recently. Hard to choose without hearing them. However, this one was available on SACD for a very silly price on Amazon, so I bought it. What a beautiful recording in every way. The soloist nicely positioned and not 'in your face', fine orchestral playing and sensitive conducting. I was happy to discard my old Kennedy recording after hearing this!
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on 5 July 2014
Little is the definitive Elgarian in her consummate rendering of the magnificent violin concerto; the daunting technicality of the solo part is never allowed to seem simply pyrotechnic but always part of a wider, transcendent lyrical artistry that is at the centre of Elgar's vision, with every nuance of this vast panorama of a piece exquisitely captured.
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on 20 March 2014
There is a huge number of virtuoso performances of Elgar's beautiful concerto for violin to choose from but this one by Tasmin Little and the Scottish National Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis must be numbered among the best of recent recordings. Little's performance is warm and passionate but conveys the deeply reflective side of Elgar's character.
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on 19 December 2010
As a lover of classical music I am always looking for fine performances and fine quality renditions. this purchase was yet another example of such a combination. Thoroughly enjoying listening to a very difficult piece of music played well and recorded superbly
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on 19 January 2011
I was in 2 minds about buying this cd, because in the info it says you need SACD compatible equipment to listen to it.
Actually it is a hybrid SACD(I looked this up before buying) and so it is possible to play it on normal cd players.
Fortunately for my dad (and me)it played perfectly on his stereo without problems.
Lets hope future product info can be a bit clearer.
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