Colin Davis

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius

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English conductor Colin Davis turned to the music of Edward Elgar only late in his career. One can easily understand why. When he first made his name in the early '60s, Davis was known as a brilliant Mozart conductor, an insightful Stravinsky conductor, and an inspired Tippett conductor. But while he later also became a noted Sibelius, Haydn, and even Dvorák conductor, Davis almost entirely stayed away from the directly emotional Romanticism of Elgar until the early years of the twenty first century. Then, in quick succession, he conducted and recorded all three of Elgar's symphonies and his oratorio The Dream of Gerontius with the London Symphony, and amazingly enough, every performance was just about as good as it gets. In this 2005 recording of The Dream, Davis takes a work lovingly encrusted with a thick coat of English sentimentality and blasts it into the middle of next week. There's an incredible clarity to his conducting, and not just musically but emotionally, that makes everything sound honest and sincere. Although the London Symphony & Chorus perform with mighty magnificence, they never get too thick and heavy. Even the soloists -- plangent tenor David Rendall, soulful mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, and powerful bass Alastair Miles -- are less histrionic and more dramatic. The result is surely the best recording of The Dream since the 1967 Boult and the 1964 Barbirolli, and anyone who knows and loves the work should hear this performance, particularly in LSO Live's transparent sound.

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