London Philharmonic Elgar Box

0 of 5 stars

Cello Concerto in E minor, Op.85
Chanson de matin, Op.15/1
Chanson de nuit, Op.15/1
Cockaigne (In London Town) – Concert Overture, Op.40
Coronation March, Op.65
Elegy for string orchestra, Op.58
Falstaff – Symphonic Study, Op.68
Froissart – Concert Overture, Op.19
Imperial March, Op.32
In the South (Alassio) – Concert Overture, Op.50
Introduction and Allegro for string quartet and string orchestra, Op.47
Sea Pictures, Op.37
Serenade for Strings, Op.20
Symphony No.1 in A flat, Op.55
Symphony No.2 in E flat, Op.63
The Sanguine Fan, Op.81
Three Characteristic Pieces, Op.10 [No.3: Contrasts: The Gavotte AD 1700 and 1900]
Violin Concerto in B minor, Op.61

Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano) [Sea Pictures]
Alfredo Campoli (violin)
Paul Tortelier (cello)

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Sir Adrian Boult [Cello Concerto; Chanson de matin; Chanson de nuit; Falstaff; Introduction and Allegro; The Sanguine Fan; Violin Concerto]
Sir Edward Elgar [Elegy; Froissart; Serenade; Three Characteristic Pieces]
Vernon Handley [Symphony No.2; Sea Pictures]
Sir Charles Mackerras [Enigma Variations; Imperial March]
Sir Landon Ronald [Coronation March]
Sir Georg Solti [Cockaigne; In the South; Symphony No.1]

Recorded between 1933 and 1985

Reviewed by: Andrew Achenbach

Reviewed: May 2007
CD No: LPO – 0016-0020 (5 CDs)
Duration: 6 hours 25 minutes

Prospective purchasers will find old friends and discoveries aplenty in this handsome 5-CD box from celebrating the Elgar sesquicentennial from the London Philharmonic Orchestra, a group which can boast arguably the strongest Elgarian credentials of any.

CD 4 couples Boult’s authoritative and typically unforced mid-1950s versions of the Violin Concerto (with Alfredo Campoli a songful, intensely warm-hearted soloist) and masterly symphonic study Falstaff (contractual obligations dictated that on the original Nixa LP the LPO was dubbed the ‘Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra’). Alas, the transfer of the concerto lacks the body, transparency and bloom of Tony Hawkins’s painstaking restoration for Beulah. Over-processing likewise takes its toll on the early stereo Falstaff, where string textures in both dream interludes err towards the disconcertingly subfusc and some surface noise betrays a vinyl source – one hopes that the original masters have not gone astray! A pity, for the actual performance is hugely spirited and unerringly well-paced – by no means the most immaculately polished traversal, yet, on balance, the most involving of Boult’s three Falstaffs.

Elsewhere, there’s a clutch of more familiar offerings under Sir Adrian. His October 1972 alliance with Paul Tortelier in the Cello Concerto has many admirers but to my ears just misses out on greatness: for all the easy authority and honesty on show, the re-creative flair and inspirational fervour one might have expected from these two wonderfully wise artists are not readily stoked here and the tingle-factor remains stubbornly low. Similarly, the Introduction and Allegro set down later that same year is more efficient than inspired and seldom sets the pulse racing like, say, Boult’s own electrifying live BBCSO performance from the 1975 Proms on BBC Legends. On the plus side, both the Chanson de nuit and Chanson de matin are a delight, and it’s also good to have back again the pioneering 1973 recording of The Sanguine Fan in its entirety (this last appeared in 1989 on a EMI Studio CD with Boult’s final Falstaff).

Some five or so months after the LPO’s inaugural concert in October 1932, the 75-year-old composer set down the present memorably flexible and affectionate Froissart. The Serenade and Elegy followed that August, profoundly touching renderings both. Once more, the transfers are disappointingly shallow and husky in timbre. That just leaves the dark-hued Coronation March of 1911, slightly pruned in this otherwise imposing account from March 1935 under Sir Landon Ronald (the only recording of this composer’s music by the dedicatee of Falstaff).

A mixed bag, inevitably, but with enough nuggets to make it well worth seeking out. Andrew Neill, Chairman of the Elgar Society, contributes a splendidly detailed and knowledgeable booklet-essay.

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