Robert Cowan reviews two of the latest record re-releases
replay; Nielsen: Concertos etc Various artists (Recorded: 1936-1960) (Danacord / Discovery Records DACOCD 354-356; three discs); Elgar: Symphony No 2; Sospiri; etc BBC SO / Sir Adrian Boult (Recorded: 1934-44) (Beulah 3PD15)
Friday 01 March 1996
All these performances - many recorded live - breathe Nielsen's climate. Jazzband leader Eric Tuxen charms us with the delightful Little Suite for strings, then goes on to bring a sense of wonderment to Helios, that masterly tone-poem of sunrise, sunset and the blazing light between. He charts the condensed mystery of A Saga Dream with success, before Thomas Jensen takes over for Pan and Syrinx. There's an oriental-style knees- up in Aladdin's Festival March and two superb choral works, Hymnus Amoris and a wonderful 17-minute rarity, Sovnen (or Sleep), but if you want to sample just a single miniature, it has to be Track 9 on Disc 3. "The mild day is bright and long", the hit number from Fynsk Forar, or "Springtime in Funen". The great tenor Aksel Schiotz does the honours and if he doesn't bring spring a little closer, then no one else will.
Elgar Two is a soul-baring confession that opens with manly confidence and closes on a resigned sigh. There are no flags, banners or marching feet and, although the epic elegy of its slow movement is widely associated with the death of Edward VII, its effect is more like a dignified commentary from the privacy of Sir Edward's own heart.
Boult knew the work intimately: Elgar countenanced his interpretation, critics celebrated it and there are five different recordings to choose from. This was the first and almost certainly the best, a judiciously shaped account, intensely voiced and with a luminosity of texture that recalls Toscanini in his heyday.
Some years ago EMI issued an almost identical CD coupling that, for reasons best known to themselves, they subsequently deleted - hence Beulah's rescue operation with this worthy, if rather noisy, transfer (EMI, of course, had access to metal masters). EMI also included Elgar's unexceptional orchestration of Chopin's Funeral March, a bonus that Beulah have preferred to omit. Now that's what I call sound artistic judgement.
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