For faithful fans of English composer Edward Elgar, the recordings of his orchestral works led by Adrian Boult are the sin qua non of his music. For them, Boult's recordings plumb the depths and scale the heights of Elgar's music, and to understand and appreciate the breadth of Elgar's genius, Boult's recordings are essential. For those listeners, this 2006 release of Boult's Elgar recordings with the London Philharmonic from the early '50s will be the musical equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls, that is, they present a new way to hear works and interpretations that have long been familiar to the faithful. True, Boult's interpretations didn't change all that much -- the heart, the soul, and the spirit of the music are as magnificent and magniloquent in the 50s as it was in the 60s and 70s -- but there is a tightness and a cohesiveness to the earlier performances that cast a different light on the scores. This is probably clearest in Boult's more cogent and less discursive 1951 recording of Falstaff that contains the work's episodic construction in a more firmly articulated structure. But it can also be heard in even the charming miniatures of the Nursery Suite and Dream Children that seem less relaxed and more to the point here than later recordings. Even with the LPO's more than acceptable if less than first-rate playing and EMI's more than serviceable if less than transparent recording, this disc will be mandatory listening for faithful Elgar fans. Those looking to get acquainted with the great English composer for the first time might better consider Boult's later recordings first.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Falstaff, symphonic study for orchestra in C minor, Op. 68|
|Nursery Suite, for orchestra|
|Dream Children, for small orchestra (or piano), Op. 43|
|Fantasia and Fugue, for organ in C minor, BWV 537 (BC J40)|