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Elgar conducts Elgar
Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55
Recorded 20th – 22nd November, 1930 in Kingsway Hall, London
Falstaff - Symphonic Study in C minor, Op. 68
Recorded 11th and 12th November, 1931 and 4th February, 1932 in EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London
Before its sensational première in 1908, Hans Richter, the work’s dedicatee and first conductor, acclaimed Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 as ‘the greatest symphony of modern times’.
Although Falstaff is often treated merely comically, Elgar’s virtuosic tone poem presents him and Prince Hal with a psychological insight truly worthy of Shakespeare.
On these historic and thrillingly realized recordings, made between 1930 and 1932, there really is no match for the composer’s insight and instinctive way with his own works, especially when conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, of which he had been principal conductor from 1911 to 1913.
“Elgar’s recordings of his own music have come to be regarded as one of the great achievements of gramophone history.” MusicWeb International
“It’s a joy to be reintroduced to these wonderful performances — with the Violin Concerto, the summits of Elgar’s recordings of his own music. We have been living in an age of outstanding Elgar conductors — Davis (Colin and Andrew), Elder, Barenboim, Hickox, Vernon Handley, Andrew Litton, Adrian Brown — but none of them surpasses, or even quite matches, the best of the composer’s interpretations. The strong, purposeful tread of the symphony’s opening, straightforward and sublime, the subtlety of the movement’s close, the scherzo’s sheer electricity, the adagio’s astonishing fluidity (scarcely two bars are the same length) and its almost unbearable expressive intensity: these are landmarks in an Elgarian’s experience. As for the captivating Falstaff, recorded two years later, in 1932, it is hard to imagine a more brilliantly convincing reading.” Sunday Times, 15th February 2009 ****
“The LSO plays out of its skin for the composer; Falstaff is brilliantly characterised, the Symphony has serious intensity. Fair sound for the vintage, with some harshness in the Symphony.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2009 *****
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“As digital Falstaffs go, Sir Andrew Davis's 1995 account with the BBC SO remains arguably the front-runner. If both Elgar himself and Barbirolli impart the greater vulnerability and compassion to the illimitably moving closing pages, the irresistible symphonic current coursing through Davis's meticulously observant conception provides ample compensation. The figure. Rodney Macann as the Watergnome tends to steal the show, his dark, incisive bass very characterful. Ann Howard is wonderfully menacing as the Witch, while the fluttering vibrato of Phyllis Cannan as the Foreign Princess adds to the exotic image (in Act 2, when most of the characters are dressed in white, she stands out in a crimson gown). The three Woodsprites are lively, and incidental characters are well taken.
Mark Elder draws warm incisive playing from the orchestra, adding to the dramatic impact and underpinning the moving final scene, when the Prince kisses Rusalka, knowing it will mean his death.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Sir Edward Elgar Conducts Elgar
“It was Mike Dutton, when he was at EMI, who supervised the transfer of all of Elgar's electrical recordings. That set has been available only intermittently, which makes Dutton's revised transfers of these three works specially valuable, particularly the 1928 recording of the Cello Concerto with Beatrice Harrison. It now has a satisfying weight and body, though Harrison's wiry tone is not to everyone's taste and the intonation is occasionally suspect.
The Falstaff, made at the opening of EMI's Abbey Road Studios in 1931, has always been impressive in transfers, and the recording of the Nursery Suite made in the same year with the dedicatees, the Duke and Duchess of York and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret present, comes out brightly and clearly. The Royals were particularly delighted with 'The Wagon Passes', with the whistling of the carter charmingly portrayed.
The septuagenarian Elgar put love into his performance, as he did also in Falstaff with its swaggering Prince Hal theme and tragic epilogue which so echoes the epilogue of Strauss's Don Quixote.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“…Dutton's revised transfers of these three works specially valuable, particularly the 1928 recording of the Cello Concerto with Beatrice Harrison. It now has a satisfying weight and body… The Falstaff, made at the opening of EMI's Abbey Road Studios in 1931, has always been impressive in transfers, and the recording of the Nursery Suite made in the same year... comes out brightly and clearly.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007
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The 1956 Nixa-Westminster stereo recordings Volume 1
A release that all Boult fans have been waiting for :-
Cockaigne is the first release in the UK in any format.
Most works are first releases on CD of the original Westminster source masters.
First stereo release on CD & first stereo release in UK of Cockaigne, Young Person’s Guide, Soireés musicales & Matineés musicales.
First release on CD of Elgar’s Falstaff from tape source.
All recorded at Walthamstow Assembly Halls in 1956, re-mastered at Abbey Road Studios 2010.
“...the performances of Britten and Walton...give a wider sense of Boult's sympathies as an interpreter. this account of Falstaff, in particular, has never been bettered for its sense of drama and narrative flow...The orchestral sound...generally stands up well in these transfers.” The Guardian, 3rd June 2010 ***
“The Walton Symphony...comes up more brightly than previously: it's an intensely rhythmic performance...the slow movement builds surely and passionately, and the finale comes as the culmination and catharsis that it should be” BBC Music Magazine, October 2010 ***
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