Why has one piece of music here, the Elgar Cello Concerto played by Jacqueline DuPre become so legendary? Of course it is the music itself. It has an overpowerful haunting deeply hypnotic feeling. Elgar wrote it after his recovery from a serious illness towards the end of the First War, and his thoughts were certainly on the suffering of life, and the inevitability of death. Du Pre brings to the piece not only her great mastery as cellist, but some deeper element of feeling. There is in the playing a sense of romantic abandoment of wild disturbance, and of intense and even ferious concentration.
French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras explores the late Romantic repertoire on this 2013 Harmonia Mundi release and finds a kind of mirroring of intentions and expressions between Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33, and Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto, Op. 85. While this is a rather subjective understanding of the music that listeners can either take or leave, there's no denying that Queyras, conductor Jirí Belohlávek, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra offer performances of both works that are evocative and beautiful, with or without any underlying connections.
Enigma Variations is the work that secured Elgars reputation as a composer of international significance. The 14 variations are all character portraits of friends, including his wife and the composer himself, the most famous being the ninth, the achingly nostalgic Nimrod. The Cello Concerto is Elgars last substantial work and has become not only one of his best loved, but also one of the most popular concertos ever written for the instrument.
Barbirolli made later recordings of all the works on this CD and these have become cornerstones of the catalogue. These are earlier recordings that he did with his own orchestra, the Halle, in the 1950s. To start with, the recording quality is pretty amazing. They were recorded on 35mm film tape rather than half inch recording tape by the Mercury team and have astonishing immediacy and amazingly lifelike. Barbirolli uses an organ in the finale of the Enigma Variations. The recording is a little bass heavy but this is a small caveat. For people who consider Barbirolli to be a bit indulgent as a conductor, these recordings may come as a surprise. The performances are very direct and nicely flowing. They therefore complement rather than compete with the later recordings. Of course, Barbirolli's later recording of the Cello Concerto with Jacqueline du Pre is a very famous and special rendition of the work. However, it is not without its detractors. Andre Navarra, by contrast, plays with golden tone. He plays gorgeously. Highly recommended.
On this magnificent audiophile download, world renowned cellist Jacqueline Du Pre renders a gut-wrenching performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor. This standard in the classical repertoire is delivered with unmatched emotion and virtuosity. This recording also features breathtaking vocals by Janet Baker on the Elgar classic, Sea Pictures. The purity of her tone is absolutely stunning. A highly recommended addition to any classical lover’s collection.
Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, his last notable work, is a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. Elgar composed it in the aftermath of the First World War, by which time his music had gone out of fashion with the concert-going public.
The Violin Concerto of William Walton was written in 1938–39 and reorchestrated in 1943. The concerto, about a half-hour in length, is scored for violin solo and standard orchestra (the revision pared down the percussion section from the original).
A trim, at times, almost balletic Falstaff. If that seems a ludicrous contradiction, I should explain that it refers to Dutoit's spirited interpretation of the work, not the central character, though Falstaff himself has shed a few pounds in the process but is no less loveable. Indeed, Dutoit's swift tempo for the second section (at the Boar's Head) has the theme for Falstaff's 'cheerful look and pleasing eye' sounding less like Tovey's understandable misunderstanding of it as ''blown up like a bladder with sighing and grief''. The trimming down process is abetted by the Montreal sound, with lean, agile strings and incisive brass (the horns are magnificent). Some may feel a lack of warmth in the characterization. I certainly felt that the first presentation of Prince Harry's theme (0'40'') could have done with a richer string sonority. Doubtless, too, there will be collectors who, at moments, miss the generous humanity of Barbirolli, or the Straussian brilliance of Solti. And although Mackerras is wonderful in the dream interludes and Falstaff's death, the start of his fourth section, with Falstaff's rush to London only to be rejected by the new King, is short on teeming excitement and anticipation. (Gramophone)