London Philharmonic Orchestra / Georg Solti

Elgar: Symphony No. 1; In the South "Alassio"

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This 2007 reissue in Decca's The Originals series features Georg Solti in his prime, conducting stirring renditions of Edward Elgar's concert overture; In the South (Alassio), Op. 50; and the Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55, brilliantly served up by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It's hard to go wrong with Solti's performances of post-Romantic music; while he is best remembered for his Wagner and Mahler recordings, his repertoire was broad enough to include Elgar's major orchestral works. In the South, inspired by Elgar's 1903-1904 visit to the Italian Riviera, opens the album with heroic vigor and vibrant splashes of orchestral color, evoking the tone poems of Richard Strauss. This is an entertaining work that works well as an appetizer, but the main course is obviously the Symphony No. 1, a deeply felt piece that is more personally expressive and characteristic of Elgar's style. Solti took pains to study Elgar's 1930 recording of the symphony and found that many of his interpretive ideas closely matched the composer's; and since the London Philharmonic Orchestra was well-versed in this work, having recorded it many times under other conductors, the conditions seemed right for this 1972 session. For many, this is an ideal recording of the symphony: clear-headed in vision, free of sentimentality, and sparkling in sound, though others will still prefer the 1976 EMI recording with the same orchestra under Adrian Boult, which has a somewhat more nostalgic atmosphere and a gentler approach.

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