Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 01/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The new LSO Live label, and in particular those releases featuring Sir Colin Davis, have been greeted by massive critical acclaim. While I don't own every title in the series, I do have a half-dozen of them, and Davis' recordings of the Elgar Symphonies are in my opinion even more significant than his award-winning Berlioz titles. The reason I believe this is I've already heard Sir Colin perform brilliant Berlioz, and less successful Dvorak (see my review), from 1970s sessions for Philips, while the Elgar is new. I love hearing the great British conductors tackle the greatest British composer, particularly when it is Barbirolli or Boult, and now Davis joins that great company. Of even more significance is Davis' promotion of the 3rd Symphony, which Elgar only sketched and was completed by Anthony Payne ten years ago. Of course, Boult and Barbirolli never had a chance to lend their two cents on this completed work, but many contemporary conductors have yet to touch it either. To the best of my knowledge, the only other Elgar/Payne Thirds available are Andrew Davis' full-price CD and the Naxos title. Considering with this account by Colin Davis you get the best of both worlds -- a world-renowned conductor at a budget price -- it is clearly the one to buy."
Makes the strongest case for a problematic work
Paul Bubny | Maplewood, NJ United States | 10/18/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Anthony Payne's "elaboration" of Elgar's sketches for an uncompleted Third Symphony may have yielded a best-seller (in the recording conducted by Andrew Davis) and caroling among British reviewers, but the fact remains that more so than, say, any of the "completions" of Mahler's Tenth Symphony, this inevitably falls short of what the original composer must have intended. Payne (or is it Elgar?) all too often substitutes repetition for genuine development--whether due to a lack of available material to flesh out, I don't know. With that said, there's enough of interest to justify Payne's efforts to bring this collection of sketches to life.
In this LSO Live recording, the better-known conductor-knight with the surname Davis--Sir Colin--succceeds to a remarkable degree in overcoming the inherent problems of this score (which might be compared to Elgar's First and Second Symphonies the way "Godfather Part III" compares to its Oscar-winning siblings). He imposes structural integrity and strength upon a work that can all too easily come across as ramshackle. He does not deliver as idiomatic a sound-picture as does Andrew Davis, but it can be argued that 20-plus years after his Second Symphony, Elgar was trying for a more "modern" feel and so considerations of maintaining an Elgarian idiom are perhaps less relevant here. Like other LSO Live releases, the recording is constrained and lacking in sumptuousness, but the performance surmounts this shortcoming."