A Superb ENIGMA VARIATIONS!
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sir Simon Rattle knows Elgar inside out and this all-Elgar disc is ample proof. At the helm of his own City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra he pulls out some of the most elegant and passionate playing of the Variations on CD. And as deeply felt as the famous 'Nimrod variation' is (and this is surely the most heartfelt as any ever performed), the other more brisk and refined movements are equally well played. It is, for this listener, the most successful ENIGMA VARIATIONS on record.
The remainder of this satisfying disc contains the obscure 'Incidental Music for Grania and Diarmid' composed for a play in 1901 (the Enigma set was composed in 1899) and it is apt Celtic sounding tunes that befit the story written by George Moore in collaboration with WB Yeats. The orchestration is rich and nearly Wagnerian. While not perhaps Elgar's greatest work, it bears repeated listenings.
The remaining work on this recording is the 'Falstaff Symphonic Study in C minor' composed in 1913 and is a work that eludes this listener. There are some sound themes in the work but it just seems to wander aimlessly and episodically and as a total work it fails to hold interest.
The sound on this recording is excellent: the recordings of 'Enigma' and 'Grania and Diarmid' were made in the (then) new Birmingham Symphony Hall (the recording was made in 1993) and are resonant and live. The 'Falstaff' was recorded in Butterworth Hall at the University of Warwick in 1992 and the sound is a bit more dry. But despite the few misgivings about sections of this CD, this is clearly a successful collaboration. For those in need of a definitive performance of the 'Enigma Variations', look no further. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, April 05