Andrew Davis / Philharmonia Orchestra

Elgar: Symphonies No. 1 & 2

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There are great moments in this 2007 recording of Elgar's two symphonies with Andrew Davis and the Philharmonia. There's the strangely moving transformation of the First's scherzo into its Adagio, the tenderly haunting recapitulation of the Second's Larghetto, and particularly the sunset glory of the coda of the symphony's finale, and especially the quiet, long-held woodwind chords that close the piece. Most of the rest is mildly to very disappointing. The First's opening Andante nobilmente is touched with nobility, but the Allegro that follows is all hustle and bustle without sensitivity. The Second's opening Allegro vivace lacks drive, and the climax of the following Rondo lacks intensity. At points, Davis seems curiously unsure -- the First's finale's ultimate peroration falls flat -- and at other points, the Philharmonia appears oddly unsteady -- the strings that should surge irresistibly upwards in the transition to the recapitulation of the First's opening movement are not quite together. In general, these by no means poor or even mediocre performances, but given how great they are at some points, one can only regret what might have been. Signum's sound is rich and deep, but a tad congested in tuttis.

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