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Elgar: Enigma Variations / In the South (Alassio) / Serenade for Strings, Opp. 20,36,50

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Audio CD, July 28, 2009
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Conductor: Andrew Davis
  • Composer: Edward Elgar
  • Audio CD (July 28, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Signum
  • ASIN: B00288AUX4
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,292 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Santa Fe Listener HALL OF FAME on April 20, 2011
Format: Audio CD
It's hard to get noticed when you are recording the Enigma Var. for the fifth time, as Andre Davis is here; he already had a commercial recording with the Philharmonia in 1983. the occasion here was the 150th anniversary of Elgar's birth in 1857. I appear to be building up to an anticlimax, but Davis is a major Elgar conductor, and here he and the orchestra strive to bring out as much nuance and detail as possible. this isn't a reading that sounds like an old shoe. the polish of the playing is extraordinary. The only deciding factor, I think, between this and a host of earlier accounts is whether you want a more direct or refined approach.

the recording is very clear and vivid, so there's plenty of impact from the percussion and a robust brass sound. I'd go so far as to give this Cd the palm for sound, even above my old favorite, the Decca recording with Monteux and the London Sym. The Enigmas don't feature many solos, but when there are snatches of solo playing, the Philharmonia first desks live up to their reputation for elegance. For many listeners the touchstone of any Enigma is the 'Nimrod' variation, which Davis conducts with a lovely quiet elegiac feeling, never milking the melody. The finale, Var. 14, is telling, in that Davis keeps it under control rather than letting it run free. Overall this is a shaped reading rather than a spontaneous one, very satisfying on its own terms.

In the South isn't unbuttoned, either, yet there is a controlled exhilaration in the playing that is very appealing. Davis doesn't let the orchestral texture get too thick, and the orchestra once again comes through with thrilling execution. The album ends with the Serenade for Strings. For decades Barbirolli's EMI recording from the mid-Sixties has been the classic recommendation.
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