Vasily Petrenko

Elgar: Symphony No. 2

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The transplanted Russians playing such a big role in Britain's orchestral scene are not having to plow new ground when they turn to Elgar, who, even in Soviet days, was popular in Russia. There's a certain affinity in his work with those of the Russian symphonists, especially in the turbulent Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 63. Jump in and sample the incongruously named "Rondo: Presto," a demonic scherzo that Elgar described as having "the madness that attends the excess or abuse of passion." Petrenko whips the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra into a fine frenzy, and the whipsawing moods of the opening movement are just as good. Is it Russian-style Elgar? Not really: purely English performances have had the bite Petrenko brings. But it's a worthy entry onto the crowded shelf of recordings of this symphony, with three exquisitely crafted miniatures to bring down the curtain. One negative is the sound environment of the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, whose big spaces pick up every little flaw in the orchestra's string ensemble, but for Elgar fans this is a significant event.

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