One of the happiest results of the influx of Russian talent into Britain has been conductor Vasily Petrenko's tenure with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, which he has led since 2009 and brought into the league of the major London orchestras. His recordings for the fine independent Onyx label have all been notable, but this one, featuring Elgar's Enigma Variations, Op. 36, is especially strong. Surely Petrenko did not have the Enigma Variations in his blood, and you might offhand expect him to make them sound like Tchaikovsky. Not a bit of it; this is a lean, light, and beautifully sculpted Enigma Variations, where sentiment emerges where it is warranted (sample the flowing and famous "Nimrod" variation) but is otherwise held in reserve, and each of the character sketches that make up the work have a vivid, lively quality. The use of Elgar's In the South, Op. 50, as a curtain-raiser is not totally successful, with a sense of direction not as clear as it might be. The Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20, shows just how attractive the Royal Liverpool's string tone has become these days, and it's a fine performance. But if you want to get to the highlight, skip to the Enigma Variations -- Petrenko has given it one of its best performances in recent years.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Serenade for String Orchestra Op. 20|
|Variations on an Original Theme Op. 36 'Enigma'|