Best Classical Recordings of 2009
“’The splendour in the Philharmonia’s playing is genuinely as close to Berlin Philharmonic standards as makes no difference’ .... A highly impressive recording.”
Classic FM Magazine
Performance **** - Recording *****
"These three live performances from 2007 further burnish Andrew Davis’s credentials as an Elgar conductor. One feature of the recording is the unusual strength of the bass, adding richness and weight to the lower lines and making one more aware of Elgar’s contrapuntal mastery. While it also makes parts of the Enigma Variations sound a little too comfortable, too cushioned, it also helps to bring out the really bravura timpani playing in ‘G.R.S.’ (the ‘bulldog Dan’ variation). Moreover Davis achieves a ‘Nimrod’ of great warmth and dignity, then later a wanly desolate seascape in the Variation 13 ‘Romanza’, and a finale of tremendous cumulative power. The In the South is bold, if a mite beefy, and Davis is not as successful as some conductors (Boult, say, or Solti) in concealing the work’s essentially episodic construction.
In the matter of the Enigma, competition is legion and strong. One of the other benchmarks is Andrew Davis’s own, earlier version for Warner, with the BBC Symphony, which is a superb interpretation with demonstration-class sound. Excellent though the new account is, I don’t think it quite comes up to that same standard. The disc is, however, safely recommendable as a crop of three fine interpretations, that also has the excitement of public performance, by a conductor who loves this repertoire and knows it like the back of his hand."
BBC Music Magazine
"In 2007, Andrew Davis and the Philharmonia embarked on a nationwide tour to mark the 150th anniversary of Elgar’s birth. These performances stem from those concerts: the Enigma Variations was recorded at Fairfield Hall in Croydon, and the other two works at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. For those who attended any of the Elgar series, this will make a fine memento, as well as providing a reminder that Davis ranks among the finest Elgar interpreters. There’s a comfortable ease about his Enigma, and a surging, expansive feeling about the concert overture In the South. ..."
The Guardian - 14 June 2009
“...a reading clearly born of true affection for, and deep knowledge of this rich and ever-wonderful score … any Elgarian seeking these three pieces together will not remotely be disappointed.”
International Record Review
"This is an attractive Elgar anthology, representing three stages of the composer’s career: the work in which he first showed his true style (the Serenade), the work that made the crucial breakthrough (the Variations) and one from his greatest creative period (In the South), all in performances recorded live at the Fairfield Hall, in Croydon, and at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, on London’s South Bank. The Philharmonia is on sumptuous form, the full orchestra making a splendid sound in the richly scored In the South, and the woodwind, horn, violin, viola and cello relishing their solos. Davis’s reading of the Variations is full of good touches, with well-chosen tempi (Nimrod, if a shade slow for my taste, successfully avoids pomposity), and culminating in a finely paced and viscerally exciting finale." ***
The Sunday Times - 14 June 2009
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