Elgar: Symphony No. 1

Vladimir Ashkenazy / Sydney Symphony Orchestra

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Elgar: Symphony No. 1 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Popular from its premiere in 1908, Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55, has been regarded by many as the first major British symphony; furthermore, it has remained one of his most frequently performed works for over a century. Filled with his characteristically noble themes and bristling with many exciting and stirring passages, Elgar's First is also a curiously enigmatic work, tinged with melancholy in its wayward digressions through minor keys, and veiled with impressionistic colors in its sophisticated orchestration. Listeners who know Elgar from his extroverted Pomp and Circumstance marches will find his music here is much more varied in its moods and somewhat introspective, because of its nostalgic feeling and poignant expressions. Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony present the work in a splendid audiophile package that offers high-quality DSD sound in the hybrid SACD format, and the orchestra has remarkably vivid timbres and realistic presence. Ashkenazy elicits extraordinary sonorities, paying close attention to nuances of timbre and attack, so the finest details of the music are absolutely clear and every note can be heard. The dynamic range of this recording is wide, so it will sound best on SACD players, though it is quite stunning on standard equipment.

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