Michael Simpson | Austin, TX USA | 07/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1997 EMI re-release features the 1965 recording of the cello concerto, performed by a twenty-year-old prodigy and conducted by a cellist who performed in the orchestra in 1919 when the composer conducted the premiere. The music reflects Elgar's great melancholy depression brought on by World War One, of which he wrote "Everything good & nice & clean & fresh & sweet is far away, never to return". We don't have the benefit of a recording of the premiere, but I can't imagine it surpasses the beauty of this rendition. Du Pre's performance reflects both a technical and emotional mastery of the music that is hard to find in performers twice her age. The LSO's accompaniment is both well-balanced and well-executed, keeping time fluently throughout the soloist's numerous tempo changes; in particular, the last movement's challenges are well met by the woodwinds. I do not know why cellists continue to record this concerto; it's been done to perfection.
In contrast to the concerto, the Sea Pictures, written at the turn of the last century, are much more optimistic and, well, British. Sea Pictures is better understood as a collection of songs, with changing moods and styles. As in all songs with English lyrics, one of the greatest challenges is ensuring that the words are actually understandable. This challenge is met redoubtably by Dame Janet Baker, one of the great British operatic stars of her time. The emotions, while less shaded and ambivalent than the cello concerto, are carried well by both soloist and orchestra. Sea Pictures is a worthy accompaniment to the concerto.
I recommend this recording for anyone interested in the cello, or the Elgar Cello Concerto."
Not The Only Way
William Bingham | Tuscaloosa, AL USA | 09/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"to hear the Elgar, but surely the best way. The Casals performance is feisty, the Ma is ultra-smooth. But Du Pre's passsionate rendition and hot tone will have you hallucinating. You'll love having the Sea Pictures with its burnished fin-de-siecle glow!"