Classical: I have heard the future

LSO/COLIN DAVIS

ELGAR SERIES

BARBICAN

LONDON

THERE WERE two Elgar symphonies - now there are three. Such has been the impact of Anthony Payne's masterly elaboration of the sketches for the third in the few short months since it was premiered. That Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra chose to begin their current Elgar series with it gives you some measure of the esteem in which it is already held. It has been accepted. Not, I hasten to add, as Elgar's Third Symphony but, rather, as prophecy, as conjecture, but with heart and soul as well as scholarship. It's the nearest thing we have to closure for Elgar the symphonist. And it's not a happy ending. His loss of faith is echoed and re-echoed in the bell-like tolling of the tam-tam. Time marches on, conflict passes, taking with it "half the seed of Europe" in the dying moments of the symphony. Payne's daring allusion to "The Wagon Passes" from Elgar's roughly contemporary Nursery Suite is a grim, startling metaphor for lost innocence.

And all the more startling for the chivalric swagger that Sir Colin brought to the main body of the outer movements. It has to be said that the sheer heft of the London Symphony over that of the BBC Symphony, who originated the piece, threw the sonority of those outer movements into far more dramatic relief. This was altogether riper and bigger-boned Elgar than the other Davis - Andrew - and the BBC orchestra had revealed to us. Sir Colin positively rode the sound into futures unknown. For the finale, Payne found a cathartic climax where Andrew Davis found only a crisis.

So a performing tradition is now in place for the "new" symphony with disparities in interpretation already broadening our perception of the music, just as it has done for the Violin and Cello Concertos over the years. As if to endorse that view, while simultaneously celebrating the "internationalism" of Elgar's music, Davis and LSO brought on board a Japanese violinist and Austrian cellist. Kyoto Takezawa played the Violin Concerto with plenty of objective fire. But the more discursive, the more introspective the piece became, the more of an outsider she seemed. The notes were mostly there, but not the reasons for them. Or rather, not Elgar's reasons. That was also true of Heinrich Schiff who came at the Cello Concerto from the Austro-German side of Elgar's nature. The slightly portentous presentation of the first subject, the abundance of strenuous accenting and earnest rhetoric - this was Elgar a very long way from home, though not in the least homesick.

Back, though, to the dying days of Edwardian England. The second movement of the Second Symphony rolled out like a great cortege, carrying with it a nation's collective grief. Shelley's "spirit of delight" duly succumbed to the spirit of regret - a portent of things to come - but through the sinew and opulence of the LSO sound and Davis's noble allargandos, Elgar had come home again.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks