Bryden Thomson

Elgar: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2; The Sanguine Fan; Froissart

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Although there are many fine things in them, as well as several superb moments, Bryden Thomson's recordings of Elgar's symphonies are not quite convincing. The problem is not the London Philharmonic; the musicians have known these works since they were in knee-pants and play them with virtuosity and affection. The problem is not Thomson's conducting, which is often insightful and always skillful. The problem is Thomson's interpretations, which are decidedly individualistic, sometimes brilliant, and more often eccentric. The solemn sublimity of the First Symphony's opening Andante and the tragic depths of the Second Symphony's Larghetto are wonderfully caught, but the heroic strength of the First Symphony's closing Allegro and the autumnal radiance of the Second Symphony's closing pages are lacking. Thomson's interpretations make Elgar's symphonies sound at once more morose and more nervous by making them sound less late Romantic and more proto-Modernist. Depending on how you like your Elgar, this is not necessarily a change for the better. The Sanguine Fan ballet music is light and Thomson's interpretation is distantly affectionate. The Froissart Overture is bright and Thomson's interpretation is casually refreshing.

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