Elgar rises from the grave (or Payne pulls it off...)
J Scott Morrison | 02/13/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Hearing Andrew Davis conduct what soon deserves to become widely renowned as "Elgar's 3rd" at the London Promenade concerts in 1998 was one of the biggest musical revelations of last summer. If you believe in ghosts, then you might give this recording five stars! The venerable Sir Edward died of cancer (in 1934) before he could finish his Symphony No 3. There was a right old fight with his family as to whether anybody else might be allowed to have a go, until they realised that the copyright would run out soon after the turn of the century and gave Anthony Payne free rein with the sketches -- so impressed were they with what he had already achieved. Payne, a fine composer and rigorous musician in his own right, makes no pretence that this is THE Symphony no 3 in C minor by the man perhaps best remembered for "Land of Hope of Glory" (not that Elgar ever much liked that title, or the pinching of his tune as an alternative "national anthem" along with "Jerusalem"). Nevertheless, the tale of how this music came off the page is a fascinating one, well told in the booklet with the disc. That's just the story, though: what about the music? It's vintage, first-rate Elgar -- that's all one can say -- and many a frisson ran through the Albert Hall in London when the man's living spirit seemed to come soaring out of the orchestra from the very opening bars to the last, as the BBC SO gave of their best, which is very good indeed. The form retains the "classical" four movements of Elgar's completed symphonies. At the start, an Elgar-lover is on familiar territory, but that terrain gradually shifts and the third movement is of a richness and beauty which plumbs depths of the soul that he had never sounded before. But it's not Payne, it's Elgar all right. The man was breaking new ground, no mere pomp and circumstance here, though the "big tunes" are there too -- what would Elgar be without them? Sensitively, and this reviewer doesn't doubt that Payne must have got the shivers himself from time to time, he explores a new range of orchestration and tonality the composer clearly had on paper -- and in mind -- without taking liberties. Except, maybe, at the end, to conclude the least well-charted of the sketches, but then Elgar might just have done that too. Done what? Not telling! And to think, Elgar, in one of his moods, nearly had the manuscript burnt. What a waste that would have been... Acquire, listen, enjoy. "Le Loup", Paris"
A sublime reconstruction of an unfinished masterpiece.
J Scott Morrison | 07/19/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although numerous attempts have been made by various accomplished composers to finish other's works (Tchaikovsky's 7th, Mahler's 10th, Puccini's Turandot, etc.), rarely do they come off as well as Mr. Payne's labor of love with this work! Obviously, Mr. Payne has some sort of "cosmic connection" with Mr. Elgar, as he began toying with the sketches long before being contracted by the Elgar estate to complete the work. This connection is made very clear in the sister release to this work covering the sketches and their compilation into the finished symphony. Mr. Payne has stretched beyond himself and brought to life a potentially lost relic from the past. Not just a mere reconstruction, Mr. Payne has somehow gotten into Mr. Elgar's head and assembled, linked and otherwise concocted a breathing, living work respectful of it's original composer. Elgar oftimes does not come easily to first hearing, and as with the first and second symphonies, this "third" may sometimes sound like the "...halucinations of a feverish man!" [Elgar's own words about his second symphony]. But repeated playings reveal the warmth and breadth of this primarily self-taught master, and what justice Mr. Payne has brought to such a difficult task.For their part, The BBC Symphony under Maestro Davis' direction has proved the perfect foil for Mr. Payne's efforts. This digital recording is excellent, striking a fine balance between distant sonorities and multiple-monophonic microphone techniques. It is neither too far away nor too close, blending orchestral tutti with solo instruments. Overall a strongly recommended recording for those who enjoy a fully voiced romanticism without excessive orchestral or technical bloating to overstate the point!"
It's entering the repertoire! Huzzah!
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 03/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I honestly believe that this reconstruction of Elgar's Third Symphony is quintessential in the Elgarian canon. Not words I utter lightly. But I've fallen head over heels for this piece. This performance is marvelous. And now we have a new recording with Paul Daniel conducting the Bournemouth Symphony, on Naxos, which is just as good, although rather different. The symphony is now being played all over the place. In fifty years people won't remember the splash this piece made in 1999. But we were there!"