Davis, the LSO and Elgar

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.1 in A flat, Op.55

London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Colin Davis

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: March 2002

This is a magnificent performance! Recorded live at two LSO concerts in the Barbican Hall (30 September/1 October 2001), this is the first ’LSO Live’ CD to take advantage of the opened-out acoustic that was a product of intensive work last summer. The Hall’s new-found presence and clarity is well captured in this immediate and vivid recording.

Sir Colin’s conducting is at once deeply felt and spacious. The result is a reading that is resplendent in majesty, engrossing in its energy, ear-tweaking in the sensitive revealing of expressive undergrowth, and very moving when Elgar bares his most soulful confidences. Davis and the LSO beautifully co-ordinate the fullest gestures and the lightest of filigree details – intricate solo lines are especially lucid – and the balance between trenchant power and expressive intimacy, and what lies between, is judged to a nicety.

At the very beginning Davis favours something far more ’nobilmente’ than ’semplice’ for the motto theme (Elgar suggests more equilibrium between the two states). This sets the mood for a rich and moulded account that avoids being heart-on-sleeve or aggrandising because Davis and his Orchestra have penetrated to the heart of the music.

In what is a broadly conceived and wonderfully eloquent rendition, it’s the noble slow movement that stands out, not least the pianissimo episode towards the close (from 9&#146 09”) when the strings are unbelievably hushed and intense – and quieter than the ’new’ Hall suggests is possible in reality! A creaking chair (or whatever) is audible but the concentration of the music-making transcends such intrusions.

Throughout, the LSO is in great form, and given the symphony’s use of transformation and cyclical procedures, I’ll end as I begun: this is a magnificent performance.

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