EXCELLENT SYMPHONY - AND A REVELATORY "IN THE SOUTH",
N. Stinchcombe | Birmingham, England | 06/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At first I thought there was something wrong with this recording since the orchestra sounded so distant - the aural equivalent of looking down the wrong end of a telescope. Be warned - you'll need to boost the volume of this disc considerably higher than normal for an SACD. I set my amplifier volume higher than I have for any other disc. Once this was done the sound blossomed wonderfully and the soundstage expanded - all without a hint of distortion.
Chandos's DSD five channel recording concentrates the sound in the front three channels, the rear being used for ambience only, giving one a sense of the aural space of Brangwyn Hall.
Hickox's conducting of Alassio (In The South) I found to be a revelation. His tempo for the central lyrical section, with a beautiful viola solo, is daringly slow - but he makes it the quietly beating heart of the work rather than just a passing episode. The aggressive music depicting Italy's Roman military past is equally vivid with the percussion having a real thwack on this sonically wide-ranging SACD.
Hickox's reading of the symphony is also excellent although he eschews any extremes of tempi and rubato - unlike Sir Colin Davis's idiosyncratic but very moving live LSO recording - but it's far from bland, there is still plenty of character. The vivid recording shows off the fine playing of the Welsh orchestra who are not outclassed by recordings from the big London orchestras. The strings have plenty of weight, as does the brass and the woodwind playing is full of character. An excellent release which leaves me looking forward to more Elgar from this combination of orchestra, conductor and Chandos production.