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Classical - Released May 15, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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This is a big outing for violinist Nicola Benedetti: the Elgar Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61, is a difficult work both technically and interpretively, and although it has been popular on recordings since the first one appeared in 1929, it is not exactly a crowd-pleaser; Benedetti scores here with a reading that steers a middle path between some well-established approaches. The Elgar concerto has an unusually wide range of interpretations of the tempo markings, with total timings clocking in at anywhere from 42 minutes (Jascha Heifetz) to 54 minutes (Nigel Kennedy, in one of the favored recordings of the last two decades of the 20th century). Benedetti comes in just shy of 47 minutes, and she catches the liquid speed of Heifetz while leaving room for the "awfully emotional, too emotional" quality Elgar himself described of the work. Her entrance in the first movement doesn't have quite the magnetic lyricism of Menuhin's, but her turns through the music's double stops and general veering quality generate quite a bit of momentum in both the first movement and the finale, interrupted quite effectively by a very free third-movement cadenza. For those wanting to hear Benedetti show what she can do in a more sentimental mood, the curtain is rung down by a trio of short violin-and-piano pieces, with Petr Limonov providing sensitive, quiet accompaniment. A fine Elgar concerto that can stand comparison with the other big ones on the market. © TiVo
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Classical - Released July 24, 2020 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Three composers are particularly well suited to conductor Daniel Barenboim: Bruckner, Wagner and Sir Edward Elgar; no doubt a question of orchestral colour and texture. Since his collaboration with the Universal labels has resumed (Decca for orchestral projects, Deutsche Grammophon for piano), he has once again been exploring the English composer's orchestral works with his beloved Staatskapelle Berlin, an ensemble characterised by dark timbres. After beautiful versions of the two symphonies and The Dream of Gerontius, what a joy it is to now be able to immerse ourselves in Sea Pictures, one of the most poetic song cycles of the late 19th century. The broad spectrum of the Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča's voice and her silky timbre fit perfectly with the lyrical yet tragic lines of Where Corals Lie (the most beautiful “song” of the cycle), as well as with the more theatrical The Swimmer, which takes on a truly extravagant tone. Unlike many other recordings since the legendary 1965 recording by Dame Janet Baker and Sir John Barbirolli with the London Symphony Orchestra (His Master's Voice), Elīna Garanča and Daniel Barenboim willingly drop the melancholy and contemplative tone of Sea Pictures. More in keeping with the romantic performances of the early 19th century (Berlioz), following a pattern of "Introduction" (Sea Slumber Song), "Aria I" (In Haven), an alternating form mixing recitatives and ariosos (Sabbath Morning at Sea), "Aria II" (Where Corals Lie) and "Conclusion" (The Swimmer), they have created a much more dramatic atmosphere despite very measured tempo contrasts. Barenboim's clearly drawn phrasings in the introduction of the last "song" can testify to this new approach, which in this respect is very different from the earlier recording with Yvonne Minton (CBS). Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin continue the programme with the symphonic study Falstaff, composed in 1912, on which the conductor underlines its links with the work of Richard Strauss (Don Quixote, Ein Heldenleben). As always, Daniel Barenboim's conducting is full of verve (Falstaff's March). A truly wonderful rendition. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Concertos - Released March 23, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama
What if this album turned out to be the new standard version of Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor? Judging from what we get to see of the young cellist Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, it might well be, thanks to the sumptuous, smouldering sounds that fill this interpretation from beginning to end. It would be far too tempting to compare the young German to her distant colleague Jacqueline Du Pré, for whom this concerto was a signature piece. The publisher was on the right track when they took Marie-Elisabeth Hecker's picture striking exactly the same pose as the English cellist does in one of her most famous photographs, taken when she was the young wife of Daniel Barenboim: but Hecker's head is cocked the other way to throw the observer off. Born in Zwickau in 1987, she was one of the youngest participants ever to win the Rostropovich Competition in Paris. In 2010, she enjoyed a thrilling success in her hometown, playing Concerto in A minor to mark the bicentenary of Robert Schumann's birth (he was born in the same town), conducted by Daniel Barenboim, who would no doubt have felt very touched by a scene that recalled his own youth. The attentive and careful accompaniment by Edo de Waart shows off the sonic riches of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, which he led from 2011 to 2016. Yet more proof of the high quality achieved by so many orchestras around the world today. This is an interesting pairing with a short, ultra-romantic piece by Elgar, Sospiri, transcribed here for cello and strings, whose secrets are laid bare by cellist Sol Gabetta. The Quintet for Piano in A Minor is the other major piece by Elgar to feature on this new recording. Composed in 1918, it is a very refined work, which often takes on orchestral tones, in a very Brahmsian language. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released June 5, 2007 | LSO Live

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Classical - Released January 1, 1965 | Warner Classics

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Classical - Released February 8, 2010 | Warner Classics

Distinctions Choc de Classica
The Elgar Cello Concerto and cellist Jacqueline du Pré are inextricably linked and this 1965 EMI recording of du Pré with John Barbirolli and the London Symphony Orchestra is the first great recoding of the work the ill-fated artist was to make. Barbirolli's invitation for the 21-year-old du Pré to perform the concerto thrust her into the international spotlight and remains one of her most cherished recordings. No one could ever fault du Pré for a lack of drama or intensity. Some would even say that these characteristics are overly exaggerated in her playing. But this performance breathes such passion, such nuance, and such yearning into the concerto that it quickly elevated it into one of his most recognizable compositions. Few have come close to the power of the du Pré's first movement, the nimble sprightliness of the second, the emotional impact of the third, or the nobility of the finale. Du Pré was not the only one making history with Barbirolli. The young mezzo-soprano Janet Baker also joined Barbirolli in 1965 for an equally sublime performance of Elgar's Op. 37 Sea Pictures. Baker's voice here is unbelievably controlled and pure, her diction is wonderfully clear, and the word painting achieved both with her own voice as well as the assistance from the orchestra completely mesmerizing. Though both of these recordings have been reissued many times, they continue to be standards against which all subsequent attempts are compared. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 24, 2020 | PM Classics Ltd.

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Conductor Vasily Petrenko has proven to have a really distinctive way with Elgar's music at the helm of his Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and even those not on board with his free tempos and perhaps a somewhat overheated approach to Elgar have to concede, at the very least, that it's never dull. Those interested in sampling this Elgar series might try the Petrenko-Liverpool recording of the Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 63, instead, but there's plenty to recommend this pair of vocal works. The orchestral song cycle Sea Pictures, Op. 37, is worth hearing just for the vocal contributions of Kathryn Rudge, whose instrument lies right on the line between contralto and mezzo-soprano. She can stand with the various greats who have recorded this work, including Sarah Connolly (in the same pairing as is heard here), Janet Baker, and Clara Butt. However, the real attraction is The Music Makers, Op. 69, a kind of choral cantata that seems to have reflected Elgar's inner musical dictates in a way: he wrote it with no particular commission or performance occasion in mind. It is a setting of a poem by Arthur O'Shaughnessy about musical artists ("We are the music makers / And we are the dreamers of dreams"). Elgar quotes his own music and veers from dreamy to splashy. The work is not often performed, but Petrenko finds the key: to embrace the rather unbalanced quality of the music and its powerhouse, emotionally triumphant finale, which is right in this conductor's wheelhouse. For digital purchasers in need of a state-of-the-art Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, Petrenko winds down the program with one. This album will fill a hole on many Elgar shelves or hard drives. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2014 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released March 11, 2016 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Month
At the time when Hans Richter, dedicatee and creator of the First Symphony by Edward Elgar, began rehearsals in London for the London premiere of that symphony (the creation of which took place a few days earlier in Manchester), he told the orchestra: "Gentlemen, let us now rehearse the greatest symphony of modern times, written by the greatest modern composer, and not only in this country." This was saying something ... Certainly, at the time the twentieth century was only eight years old and it is not known exactly what Richter meant by "modern times", but the tribute is not lacking in grandeur. Shortly after it's establishment, the symphony was exported around the world: New York, Vienna, Leipzig - Germany then being very sensitive to music by Elgar. It is perhaps very suiting that we return to Germany now for the First Symphony as performed by the Staatskapelle Berlin, recorded in September 2015 at the Philharmonie under the direction of Daniel Barenboim. ©SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released April 21, 2017 | Chandos

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Edward Gardner's 2017 audiophile release on Chandos explores two of Sir Edward Elgar's most admired works, the Introduction and Allegro for string quartet and string orchestra, and the Symphony No. 1 in A flat major. Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra are joined by the Doric String Quartet in the Introduction and Allegro, which was modeled on the Baroque concerto grosso form and intended to be a showpiece for the strings of the newly formed London Symphony Orchestra. While it received comparatively few performances in its early years, it has become a concert staple with the dramatically improved skills of modern orchestral string sections. This performance amply demonstrates the wide expressive and technical range of the BBC Symphony and the brilliance of the Doric String Quartet, which maintains interest throughout with its refined playing and polished sonorities. The Symphony No. 1, which was roughly contemporary with the previous work, was immediately popular with audiences and has become one of the best-loved symphonies in the repertoire. Here, Gardner and the BBC Symphony deliver an expansive and richly detailed performance that shows off the orchestra in a transparent multichannel recording that has extraordinary depth and dynamic range, and astonishing clarity. While many listeners will already have a favorite recording from the past, this hybrid SACD is highly recommended because Gardner brings out every facet of the score with precision, vibrant colors, and deep feeling. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 1966 | Warner Classics

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Chamber Music - Released May 3, 2019 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The three great chamber works, the String Quartet, Piano Quintet, and Violin Sonata, were among the very last works that Elgar wrote, composed during an intensive and productive period in 1918 and 1919 whilst living at Brinkwells in Sussex, and under the twin shadows of the horrors of the Great War and the terminal illness of his wife, Alice. The String Quartet was dedicated to the original Brodsky Quartet (the name subsequently taken by the current group when they arrived as students at the Royal Northern College of Music) and was championed by this new Brodsky Quartet from the off, sitting alongside Delius’s Quartet on their debut recording (1984). It has remained a cornerstone of their repertoire ever since. The Brodsky Quartet took the opportunity of the centenary year of both works to perform the String Quartet alongside the Piano Quintet with their frequent co-performer Martin Roscoe, and this recording is a result of that commemoration. © Chandos
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released January 15, 2021 | BR-Klassik

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The British composer Edward Elgar wrote a great deal more than just his Pomp & Circumstance Marches: his highly diverse oeuvre encompasses symphonies, concertos, chamber works, piano music and numerous choral works (oratorios, cantatas and partsongs). On this release, partsongs by Elgar can be heard with and without accompaniment as part of a representative selection of live and studio recordings. The album begins with the song cycle From the Bavarian Highlands, Op. 27; its six cheerful numbers were written while Elgar and his wife were on holiday in Garmisch in 1895. Alice Elgar had sketched verses from Bavarian folk melodies, and Upper Bavarian songs and dances can be heard in her husband’s settings. These were happy memories of carefree holidays in a region rich in music and full of fine landscapes. The Bavarian Radio Chorus, conducted by Howard Arman, sings the songs in their original version with piano accompaniment (the orchestral version came later). As a composer of English-language choral songs, Elgar is still little-known on the European mainland; in the United Kingdom, however, the situation is very different. The country has long had a lively choral scene, focusing primarily on English music – from Purcell and Handel to Hubert Parry, Charles Villiers Stanford and Elgar, all the way to Benjamin Britten and today’s contemporary composers. The program on this release has been compiled and conducted by the Englishman Howard Arman, one of today’s most knowledgeable experts on British choral music and artistic director of the Bavarian Radio Chorus, and these recordings should do much to boost the popularity of this highly appealing music on the European mainland as well. © BR-Klassik
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Symphonic Music - Released November 2, 2018 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 étoiles de Classica
Of the big choral works by Edward Elgar, The Music Makers (1912) is the most personal one. It is a setting of the poem "Ode," by English (not Irish) poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy, beginning "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams," and coining the phrase "movers and shakers" along the way. The poem has had unusually deep resonances, having been quoted and even set by popular musicians. Elgar came up with an appropriately starry-sounding setting, underscoring his affection for the work (which he labored at for nine years) by quoting several pieces of his own earlier music in the score. Sir Andrew Davis at the baton and especially the BBC Symphony Chorus have the right creamy sound for this, and a major attraction is the presence of Dame Sarah Connolly in the mezzo-soprano part. Listen to her and the chorus dig into "Therefore today is thrilling." The album is rounded out by The Spirit of England, a wartime composition that is anything but personal. The chief virtue of the present performance is that it is apparently the only one in which the solo part is sung entirely by a tenor, although Elgar specifically named this as a possible interpretation. Perhaps both of these works are for Elgar lovers, but anyone should be able to enjoy The Music Makers and discover the poem's enduring appeal. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 24, 2013 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
Edward Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius is not everyone's cup of tea, with its gigantism and its massive recitatives of Catholic doctrine. But it hangs on, and from the beginning it has had adherents beyond Britain. The work tells the story of a soul's passage into death. Elgar objected to the term oratorio, and he was right: it's more of a giant cantata. The protagonist, Gerontius, is an ordinary individual; he is sung by a tenor, and there are solo parts for an angel (a mezzo-soprano), a priest (a baritone), and an Angel of Agony (a bass, here also sung by baritone John Hancock). The choir fills various roles, including visions of angelic harmony, souls in purgatory, demons, and friends attending the dying man. This is perhaps an ideal performance. The Dream of Gerontius is a work much-beloved by choral societies, for the choir is given a lot to do, and a lot of different kinds of things to do. The beefed-up Collegium Vocale Gent is not the first choir you'd pick for this work, but they inhabit the various characters convincingly. Veteran conductor Edo de Waart, who has also championed the work in the U.S. with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, provides solid support in all the details with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic. The three soloists are very strong: they get the fact that for all its size, the work is actually personal in tone, and tenor Peter Auty avoids heroic mannerisms. The performance of the Symphony No. 1 that rounds out the second disc is clean and broadly appealing. But the real stars here are the engineers from the PentaTone label in the Netherlands. The album was auditioned on a good conventional stereo, where it revealed impressive spatial separation of the huge forces, and previously unnoticed levels of detail. With super audio-capable equipment, the album promises to give The Dream of Gerontius the environment it has been waiting for. Undoubtedly worth the money. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 3, 2012 | Halle Concerts Society

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A second-tier Elgar oratorio might sound like a good definition of torture to the not Elgarian inclined, but The Apostles, composed in 1903, has its moments and is worth a listen in this fine performance even for general choral music fans. Annotator Michael Kennedy describes Elgar's oratorio style as an "[offshoot] of Bachian oratorio, sprinkled with Wagner dust," which is true enough. But the appeal of this particular work lies in something else again: the novelty of an account of Christ's crucifixion plotted through the eyes of those around him. Elgar himself selected and reworked biblical texts to create this unique and distinctively modern take on the age-old story, and he provided music to match. The oratorio, with its huge orchestra and choir, takes a while to lumber to life. But the second part is not quite like anything else in the choral repertory. The crucifixion itself is marked only by a big crescendo, the single most Wagnerian moment in the work. The rest of the action reflected through the characters of Judas (in the run-up) and Mary (after the deed is done). Elgar, believe it or not, complained that English singers were "too white" for the role of Judas, but he would have loved the performance of bass Brindley Sherratt, whose voice stands out from the rest of the cast with terrific dramatic effect. His mounting worry in the opening tracks of CD 2 really ought to be heard. The dramatic success may also be due to a restoration of the work by conductor Mark Elder, who has added some choral echo effects and the like, and engineer Steve Portnoi deserves the highest possible praise for maintaining clarity with the numerous forces involved, especially in live performances (the recording consists of a single performance in May 2012, plus rehearsals). Everybody, not just Elgar fans, try it, you'll like it. © TiVo
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Symphonic Music - Released November 3, 2017 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Qobuzissime - 5 étoiles de Classica
Aside from Elgar’s fascinating and obligatory Falstaff composed in 1913 (a Symphonic Study according to the partition, but in reality a symphonic poem in the grand tradition of Strauss— about whom Elgar probably thought when he wrote his masterpiece, and the rather present solo cello cannot help but remind us of Strauss’ Don Quixote, composed sixteen years earlier), the album distinguishes itself by a few melodies with orchestra from the same Elgar, a repertoire unfortunately too often neglected and yet of breathtaking beauty (we hear, in a pinch, the Sea Pictures performed from time to time, but that’s all folks). And when you know that it’s the now very famous baritone Roderick Williams on the mic, we can only applaud the initiative of Andrew Davis and the BBC Philharmonic to feature these splendors once again. Elgar proves to us here that, far from just being a great master of large symphonic-vocal soundscapes in the form of oratorio (we obviously think about The Dream of Gerontius, The Apostles and The Music Makers), he handles the miniature with genius. Roderick Williams, one of the most beautiful voices of today’s British scene, grasps these rarities with a joy that is as rare as these pieces. The album closes on a hilarious wink, the Smoking Cantata, a cantata with a ginormous orchestration but that lasts… only 49 seconds, and whose text is limited to: “Kindly, Kindly, kindly do not SMOKE in the hall or staircase”. It’s the best British humor! Qobuz technical commentary on sound qualityThe sound quality for this wonderful orchestration is refined; the level ratios are well-judged; and the distances between the consoles are just right, in this airy piece of mixing that renders the lines exceptionally clear. Clear and enveloping reverberation never hides the discourse: the result is a rare evenness between the different families within the orchestra. The tutti certainly aren’t lacking any liveliness, thanks to the remarkably assured dynamic, and when the percussion gets going we discover a beautifully-proportioned hall, which gives the sound room to develop without constraints. Without falling into the very (too?) popular trap of ultra-proximity, and because the acoustics allow it, Chandos has produced a mix which really respects the score, the performance, and the sound scene... what a relief! © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released July 1, 2017 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles Classica
Edward Elgar disapproved of the term "oratorio" for The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38, even though it seems to fit the criteria for the term. In this reading by Daniel Barenboim, the Staatskapelle Berlin, a pair of massed top German choirs, and fine soloists, Elgar's caution seems to be borne out: the work emerges as positively operatic, with impressive results. The soloists are English, the conductor Argentine-Israeli-Palestinian, but this is at heart a German Traum des Gerontius, appropriate in view of the fact that it was the Germans who first appreciated and did justice to this work that has so long been thought of as purely English. Barenboim's conception of the piece is intensely dramatic, with very deliberate, stately slow sections, such as the opening Prelude, heavy in a good way. The soloists take their place in the work naturally: there was disappointment in 2016 when the star tenor Jonas Kaufmann had to cancel and was replaced by Andrew Staples as Gerontius, but the coherence of the performance may have thereby improved. The Staatsopernchor Berlin and RIAS Kammerchor are the real stars of the show: coaxed by Barenboim into chilling mockery in the Demons' chorus and into resplendent beauty in "Praise to the Holiest in the Height." Decca's live sound from the Philharmonie in Berlin is very fine, with superb dynamic range. The end result is a recording that captures both the work's mysticism and its mighty choral festival face. Strongly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 1, 2010 | Halle Concerts Society

After a series of brilliantly conducted and tremendously well-played recordings, Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra have turned in a dud with this hugely disappointing performance of Elgar's Violin Concerto and his preludes to The Kingdom and The Dream of Gerontius, and "The Angel's Farewell" from Gerontius. Though the performance is well-played and stylishly conducted, Elder seems to have little to no feeling for the music. His interpretation is too fast in the slow parts, too slow in the fast parts, and too cold in every part. Even worse is soloist Thomas Zehetmair. A superb violinist and a wonderful musician, Zehetmair sounds like he has no idea what Elgar's concerto is about. While the work was conceived as the monument to a platonic love affair, Zehetmair dispatches it with all the feeling of a butcher working over an especially obdurate carcass. It's not that Zehetmair gets the notes wrong, but that the expressive markings in the score seem to mean little to him, rendering a hot-blooded Romantic work merely a series of technical problems to be solved. With at least a dozen more sympathetic recordings of the concerto available, it is impossible to recommend this one. The studio digital sound, however, is very fine: clear, clean, and colorful. © TiVo