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Elgar: Symphony No. 1, Cockaigne / Oramo, Stockholm Philharmonic

Elgar / Oramo / Royal Stockholm Po
Release Date: 08/12/2014 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1939   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

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Sakari Oramo’s Elgar symphony cycle is most notable for the ravishing Bis sound. Never, but never, have these pieces sounded this good. It’s the kind of recording quality that flatters the orchestra so much you’d never know they weren’t one of the three or four best ensembles in the world ... and the clarity! I don’t ever put on an album and follow along with the score, but a friend reports that this is the best way to do so. It’s easy to hear why: everything is there, from the basses on - up to the very natural violins and woodwinds. Climaxes are never congested. Basically, for your ears, these two discs are the
Read more equivalent of a day at the spa or a chocolate tasting.

What about the interpretations? Again, they automatically sound even better because you can hear every bit of commitment, passion and enthusiasm from the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic. There are just countless little details — like the fiery French horns rip-roaring in the First Symphony’s scherzo — which leave me enthralled.

As for Sakari Oramo, he’s better in the First Symphony than in the Second. The former begins with timpani rolls spaced so far apart I thought I’d missed the second one, but the movement turns out to be excellent, suitably dramatic and fairly conventionally paced. It’s a minute faster than the intensely slow Tate/EMI, but a good 90 seconds longer than Solti’s pace. Oramo uses a lot of rubato in the scherzo and at times you can feel it lurching into a slower gear with a sudden clunk. It’s like being in the car with someone who is learning how to use the clutch.

That’s my only complaint about a performance which is outstanding all the way through. The Adagio is gorgeous and touching; the finale’s a little slow at times but builds to a terrific coda.

– Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International

A very impressive and engaging performance of the symphony. I think Oramo has the measure of the score – that’s beyond question – and he has its spirit too. His conception of the score is triumphantly realised by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic who play magnificently. All sections of the orchestra play splendidly but I must single out for special mention the horn section. Elgar is rivalled only by Richard Strauss in his writing for this instrument. Marvellously imagined horn parts are at the heart of almost all his mature orchestral scores and those in the First Symphony offer choice examples of his affinity with the instrument. The Stockholm horns play gloriously throughout.

The performance of Cockaigne is vital and colourful. The nobilmente theme shortly after the start is well done but, as with the first movement of the symphony, it’s the energy and vivaciousness of the performance that really sticks in the listener’s mind – the marching band is really sprightly and there’s more than a whiff of Pomp and Circumstance about this episode in Oramo’s performance. Some may feel that there’s insufficient relaxation along the way but I found it a very likeable performance. Sadly, however, Oramo rather overplays his hand at the very end where the final peroration (from 13:05) is too slow and over-inflated with an excessive slowdown leading into the passage. Both Boult and Barbirolli show just how it should be done, giving this passage due weight and grandeur without becoming pompous. Oramo has a splendid contribution from the organ in the closing pages.

The sound that BIS has obtained in these two recordings is excellent. The sound has presence and impact and also the richness – not a cloying richness – which opulent scores such as these demand. I can’t recall hearing the Symphony in more impressive sound. The excellent booklet note is by the composer John Pickard.

– John Quinn, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in A flat major, Op. 55 by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1907-1908; England 
2.
Cockaigne Overture, Op. 40 "In London Town" by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900-1901; England 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 1 in A-Flat Major, Op. 55: I. Andante nobilmente e semplice - Allegro
Symphony No. 1 in A-Flat Major, Op. 55: II. Allegro molto
Symphony No. 1 in A-Flat Major, Op. 55: III. Adagio
Symphony No. 1 in A-Flat Major, Op. 55: IV. Lento - Allegro
Cockaigne, Op. 40, "In London Town"

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