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Elgar: Enigma Variations; Kodaly, Blacher / Solti, Vienna PO


Release Date: 10/14/1997 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 452853   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Zoltán KodálySir Edward ElgarBoris Blacher
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

A warmly expressive, subtly nuanced, and deeply felt account of the Enigma Variations that shows how Solti mellowed in his later years.

Celebrating his half-century as a Decca artist, as well as — this October — his eighty-fifth birthday, Sir Georg Solti here offers a nicely autobiographical collection of three sets of variations: the Peacock Variations of Kodaly representing his Hungarian roots, the lively Paganini Variations of Blacher a recognition of his years as German citizen, and finally a tribute to his unique Britishness in Elgar's Enigma Variations.

The disc is also a tribute to the Vienna Philharmonic and Solti's special relationship with that orchestra, with whom he recorded these live
Read more performances in the Musikverein last April. You have only to compare this warmly expressive, subtly nuanced, and deeply felt account of the Elgar with Solti's earlier Chicago version of 1974 to appreciate not only the quality of this great Viennese orchestra, but the way in which Solti has mellowed over the last two decades.

In the Chicago version he encourages rubato, but in the slightly brittle sharpness of focus one senses a learnt, unspontaneous quality, whereas from this Viennese performance you would assume — wrongly I am sad to say — that these musicians had been playing Elgar all their lives. When I heard this, I had just been listening to Decca's latest reissue of Karajan's Vienna Philharmonic version of Holst's The Planets, and it struck me again how responsive these players are — at least with a master-conductor — to an idiom initially alien to them. This is a heartfelt, incandescent performance, delicate and subtle in detail, which is the more moving, when Solti refuses to over-emote, for example, in the great climax of "Nimrod", taking it at a flowing speed.

This new version of the Peacock Variations is most welcome too, and it is surprising that Solti has waited over 40 years since his 1954 reading with the LPO (in mono, 10/54— nla) before record ing it again. That earlier version was briefly available on CD in Decca's Historic series, and though Solti's interpretation of a fellow-Hungarian composer has altered less between recordings than the Elgar, there too the new performance has extra warmth and subtlety, with the rhythmic verve just as infectious as before, in short a joyous performance.

The Blacher makes a delightful fill-up, a 15minute work not nearly as well-known in this country as it deserves to be. Again the performance is infectious in its pointing of rhythm. Jazzy syncopations are consistently interpreted with a sense of fun, and the element of fantasy in Blacher's sequence of 16 free variations is regularly brought out, ending with a breathtaking account of the final mob o perpetuo. The Decca engineers have done wonders in capturing the unique acoustic of the Musikverein, with close balance avoided and plenty of air round the sound. My one complaint is that the Kodaly and Blacher are each presented on a single track, with no indexing of salient variations.

– Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [3/1997]
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Works on This Recording

1. Variations on a Hungarian folksong "The Peacock" by Zoltán Kodály
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938-1939; Hungary 
Date of Recording: 04/1996 
Venue:  Live  Musikverein, Vienna, Austria 
2. Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 "Enigma" by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898-1899; England 
Date of Recording: 04/1996 
Venue:  Live  Musikverein, Vienna, Austria 
3. Variations on a Theme of Niccolò Paganini, Op. 26 by Boris Blacher
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/1996 
Venue:  Live  Musikverein, Vienna, Austria 

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