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Elgar: Sea Pictures; Symphony No. 1

Album Summary

>Elgar, Edward : Sea Pictures, Op. 37
>Elgar, Edward : Symphony no 1 in A flat major, Op. 55
Conductor Ensemble
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Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall, London (02/23/1984).


Handley Conducts Elgar
This 1984 concert was given in honor of the 50th anniversary of the composer's death. While maestro Handley, who died in 2008, left us a fine cycle of the Vaughan Williams symphonies (recently reissued as a part of EMI's monumental 30 CD Vaughan Williams Collector's Edition), his performance here is curiously tepid and restrained. Perhaps the very solemnity of the occasion induced him to reign in his emotions and plow ahead with that stereotypical British stiff upper lip. Handley's performance of the Symphony has none of the grandeur, intensity, or ineffable beauty of Sir John Barbirolli's classic EMI recording. Handley's tempos are consistently faster than Barbirolli's, especially in the opening movement. Indeed, Handley shaves nearly two and a half minutes off of Barbirolli's time, rushing past many a touching moment or poignant detail. Even the orchestral colors seem strangely muted here. Among other things, Handley seems to have given the harpist the night off. The recorded sound lacks the presence and heft of Barbirolli's EMI disc, and there's considerable tape hiss. Although Janet Baker had retired from the operatic stage two years before this concert, her voice was nearly as radiant as ever and her performance of Elgar's five Sea Pictures as captured on this disc is stunning. Baker was, after all, peerless as an interpreter of the orchestral songs of Mahler, and she makes these exquisite Elgar creations seem every bit as moving and powerful as Mahler's best work. Handley proves himself to be a sensitive accompanist, and Baker, even at this late stage in her career, still has enough volume to soar above the orchestra whenever necessary. Still, if forced to choose, I'd prefer Baker's EMI recording with Barbirolli. The sound was much cleaner and more richly detailed, and Baker's voice back then was as fresh and sweet as a sunny spring day.
Submitted on 08/15/10 by Tom Godell 
Excellent Live Recording of a Classic Elgar Symphony
The London Philharmonic is in superb form under the direction of English music specialist Vernon Handley. Dame Janet Baker (contralto) is excellent in Elgar's Sea Pictures, an interesting addition to any collection. But, let's me honest here, the main reason for this disc is for Elgar's great Symphony #1. The LPO does not disappoint. While the recording is a bit distant for my taste (as if recorded from the back of the concert hall), it is a live recording, so the recording can be forgiven. This is not to say that the record lacks clarity, it is still vibrant. The orchestra really comes to life in the Adagio (3rd Movement), where you can truly hear the strings breathing with passion.
Submitted on 06/08/11 by DanL 
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Works Details

>Elgar, Edward : Sea Pictures, Op. 37
  • Conductor: Vernon Handley
  • Running Time: 22 min. 28 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 1897-1899
  • Studio/Live: Live

>Elgar, Edward : Symphony no 1 in A flat major, Op. 55
  • Conductor: Vernon Handley
  • Running Time: 48 min. 26 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 1907-1908
  • Studio/Live: Live