Colin Davis's sure touch and the rich velvety sound of the Dresden Staatskapelle...
Andrew McGregor 2006
Elgar's Symphony No. 1 in a live recording conducted by Sir Colin Davis? That'll be LSO Live then, the latest in their series...no, hang on a moment: they've already done the three Elgar Symphonies.
In this German Radio recording from the late 1990s Davis is conducting the Staatskapelle Dresden - a quite different sound from Davis conducting the LSO. There's a darker, richer, more velvety aspect to it...deeper shades of brown if you like, and with Sir Colin's sure touch in Elgar's music they have no trouble at all tapping into the gentle grandeur and proud nobility of the symphony.
The sleeve notes are at pains to point out that Elgar's music was never just a British thing, that he was supported by Richard Strauss and Hans Richter, and that his music gives him away as a contemporary of Strauss, Mahler and Debussy.
The sound of the Dresden orchestra reconnects Elgar more powerfully with the European romantic tradition, and it's a wonderful performance, sweeping majestically ahead, adrenaline pumping, before glancing behind in those wistfully nostalgic moments that pepper the score.
From time to time you may find yourself wishing that Sir Colin was less intent on adding a vocal part to the score - his vocal exertions have been clearly caught by the microphones -but the couplings are more than adequate compensation: two Berlioz Overtures, and with this conductor's reputation in Berlioz, you know what that means. The Berlioz is brilliant, the Elgar outstanding. Only for Brits? Perish the thought!
Like This? Try These:
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique (LSO/Sir Colin Davis)
Smetana: Má Vlast (LSO/Sir Colin Davis)
Elgar: Violin Concerto (Albert Sammons)