SOMM RECORDINGS is delighted to announce the release of Elgar from America, Volume I featuring historic recordings by a legendary cellist, two American orchestras and a trio of the 20th century’s greatest conductors. The results offer a fascinating transatlantic perspective on a titan of British music and includes two masterpieces and a symphonic study which Elgar considered his best orchestral piece.
Elgar visited America annually from 1905-07 and again in 1911 where his music found articulate champions and a place in the country’s affections, the trio of his Pomp and Circumstance March in D an essential, long-established part of ceremonies accompanying America’s graduation tradition. The featured recordings date from theRead more 1940s and have been restored and remastered by the multi-award-winning audio restoration engineer Lani Spahr, who also provides informative booklet notes.
The Enigma Variations were, by far, America’s favourite Elgar work in the first decade of the last century. The “fleet, error-free performance” by the NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arturo Toscanini in New York’s Radio City Studio on November 5, 1949 appears here on album for the first time. New in any form is Artur Rodzin´ski’s never-before released October 10, 1943 Carnegie Hall account of Falstaff Symphonic Study in C minor with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra.
Cellist Gregor Piatigorsky joined the NYP-SO under John Barbirolli for a November 10, 1940 Carnegie Hall performance of the Cello Concerto. Piatigorsky never recorded the work commercially and this is the only known existing recording of him playing the piece. Lani Spahr’s previous restorations of historic Elgar recordings for SOMM Recordings include Elgar Rediscovered and the four-disc set Elgar Remastered which featured recordings from the composer’s own collection and was hailed by Audiophilia as “a fascinating achievement which will have you wishing for more”.
Elgar enthusiasts will find it intriguing, not least because it offers performances by some performers who one does not normally associate with Elgar’s music. This particular Toscanini performance of ‘Enigma’ is new to CD and Rodzinski’s Falstaff has never been issued commercially in any format. It’s also healthy and stimulating to hear performances from outside the English performing tradition. There is some surface noise at times but in general Lani Spahr’s transfers seem to me to have been extremely successful. There is applause after each work but otherwise the audiences are commendably quiet.
Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 "Enigma"by Sir Edward Elgar Conductor:
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1898-1899; England Date of Recording: 11/5/1949 Venue: Radio City Studio 8H, NYC
Concerto for Cello in E minor, Op. 85by Sir Edward Elgar Performer:
Gregor Piatigorsky (Cello)
New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1919; England Date of Recording: 11/10/1940 Venue: Carnegie Hall, NYC
Falstaff, Op. 68by Sir Edward Elgar Conductor:
New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1913; England Date of Recording: 10/10/1943 Venue: Carnegie Hall, NYC
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Listening to giantsMay 17, 2019By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"New York has a long tradition of providing a warm welcome to foreign composers, and Edward Elgar was no exception. He made a big splash in his visits early in the century, and his American reputation was at a high point in the 1940s, when these three recordings were made by top conductors with the top New York musicians. Yes, Toscanini takes the Enigma Variations at quite a clip, and you occasionally want to hail the orchestra as it speeds by. The Nimrod Variation, at less than three minutes, is unsentimental but it never comes across as the least bit unfeeling, and the conductor brings it to a satisfyingly heroic - and heartbreaking - finish. The Nimrod norm seems to be over four minutes, though the composer himself broke the 3 minute barrier in one of his own recordings, (he introduces his own kind of pathos though swoopy strings). It's fun to listen to a dozen different Nimrods in a row: I'd recommend it for a cold, overcast day like the Toronto one I'm writing this review in. Overall, I'm impressed with Toscanini's dramatic, occasionally even operatic, take on this great work, and his players are outstanding. The playing is as polished as a studio recording, and the fact that it's recorded over the air from a live broadcast shows the very high level of preparation, and the skill of both musicians and conductor. The stakes don't seem as high in the next recording included here: John Barbirolli, the New York Philharmonic and Gregor Piatigorsky provide a relaxed Cello Concerto that I wouldn't rate at the very highest level, though it's still very fine. It does have considerable value as documentation; this great cellist never got around to recording this great concerto in the studio. I wish the sound here were as good as the Toscanini recording. The final work on the album is a commercial release premiere: Artur Rodzinksi conducts the New York Philharmonic in a very good Falstaff. Alas the sound is even dimmer than the the Cello Concerto, though of course we all make allowances for these historic recordings, and the feeling of actually being there in this time of musical giants makes up for so much. Speaking of being there, I didn't imagine myself sitting in evening dress at Carnegie Hall, but instead comfortably in an armchair in my housecoat and slippers, listening on an RCA Tombstone Console Radio."Report Abuse