Elgar's Symphony No. 1 in A flat signaled a new beginning for the non-programmatic symphony in England, partly as a reaction to the popular tone poems of Richard Strauss, but also as positive endorsement of the classical tradition Brahms upheld. The work opens with one of the composer's most profoundly moving melodies, a long motto theme that undergoes many transformations throughout the work in a cyclic vein common to many other late Romantic symphonies. Turbulent eruptions mark the Allegro, and the unsettled mood carries into the flurries of the Scherzo. The expansive Adagio harks back to Beethoven's models and is the work's serene center. The disruptions of the first movement return in the Finale, yet they are resolved in the magnificent coda, a triumphant apotheosis of the motto theme. The Serenade for Strings in E minor is a poignant work of fin de siècle elegance, comparable in its restrained passion and classical poise to Tchaikovsky's Serenade. The two amorous Chansons were first known in versions for violin and piano, but were later arranged by Elgar for small orchestra. Sir Adrian Boult's classic recordings with the London Philharmonic Orchestra set a high standard still emulated in Elgar performances today, and the selections have been digitally remastered for greater clarity.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55|
|Serenade, for strings in E minor, Op. 20|
|Pieces (2) ("Chanson de matin" & "Chanson de nuit"), for violin & piano (later orchestrated), Op. 15|