Thomas Zehetmair / Mark Elder / Hallé Orchestra

Elgar: Violin Concerto

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After a series of brilliantly conducted and tremendously well-played recordings, Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra have turned in a dud with this hugely disappointing performance of Elgar's Violin Concerto and his preludes to The Kingdom and The Dream of Gerontius, and "The Angel's Farewell" from Gerontius. Though the performance is well-played and stylishly conducted, Elder seems to have little to no feeling for the music. His interpretation is too fast in the slow parts, too slow in the fast parts, and too cold in every part. Even worse is soloist Thomas Zehetmair. A superb violinist and a wonderful musician, Zehetmair sounds like he has no idea what Elgar's concerto is about. While the work was conceived as the monument to a platonic love affair, Zehetmair dispatches it with all the feeling of a butcher working over an especially obdurate carcass. It's not that Zehetmair gets the notes wrong, but that the expressive markings in the score seem to mean little to him, rendering a hot-blooded Romantic work merely a series of technical problems to be solved. With at least a dozen more sympathetic recordings of the concerto available, it is impossible to recommend this one. The studio digital sound, however, is very fine: clear, clean, and colorful.

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