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Elgar: In The South; Brahms: Serenade No 1 / Muti, La Scala


Release Date: 08/09/1994 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 57973   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sir Edward ElgarJohannes Brahms
Conductor:  Riccardo Muti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Scala Philharmonic
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Muti's strong and expressive performances provide reason enough for recommending the disc to anyone who fancies the linking of early Brahms with mature Elgar.

If this is an unexpected coupling from an unexpected source, Riccardo Muti's strong and expressive performances provide reason enough for recommending the disc to anyone who fancies the linking of early Brahms with mature Elgar. It is surprising how many versions of the Brahms are listed in the catalogue and though Muti's reading is distinctive among them—bringing out the fun and beefy good humour over the six movements—I would hesitate to recommend it as a first choice, when the recording is rather muddy, with a weighty bass and undernourished high violins.
Read more Knowing the acoustic problems of the Teatro La Scala in Milan, where it was recorded, I attribute the thinness of the violin sound more to the recording than to the players themselves, who are drawn not just from the opera orchestra at La Scala, but from other Italian orchestras as well.

The dynamic range of the recording is rather limited too, with the weight of sound failing to expand as it should. That said, the rustic quality of many of Brahms's ideas is well caught, with some outstanding solo wind playing, and with Muti giving the central Adagio, much the longest movement, a tender, delicate expressiveness which such rivals as Abbado (DG, 5/87—nla) or Haitink do not quite match. Even so, if anyone is wanting the Serenade above all, I would certainly recommend in preference the Haitink/Concertgebouw version on mid-price Philips. In the Silver Line Classics series it couples this work most aptly with the Serenade No. 2, though at the expense of omitting the exposition repeat in the first movement. Haitink's analogue sound has far more weight and atmospheric sense of presence than Abbado's Berlin recording for DG or the previous Sony version from Michael Tilson Thomas and the LSO, let alone this new issue.

The Milan acoustic treats the Elgar more kindly, though the violins are still on the thin side, and there is nothing like the opulence that Giuseppe Sinopoli, for example, finds in his Philharmonia version for DG (10/90—nla). Yet, like Sinopoli, Muti has a natural feeling for Elgarian rubato, and he too takes an expansive view, though he is not so extremely slow in the lovely Canto popolare nocturne. The Scala viola principal plays the solo in that section very beautifully, with perfect intonation, but surprisingly for an Italian in Italian-inspired music he is emotionally reticent. And though Muti is warmly expressive throughout the overture, he fails to thrust the surging coda home as excitingly as he has done in the concerthall in Britain, and one gathers in Philadelphia too. Nonetheless, it is always good to find British works, particularly ones that might be counted unfashionable, taken up by non-British orchestras and conductors, and played with such understanding. For anyone attracted to this coupling the reservations I have made may well prove insignificant.

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [1/1995]
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Works on This Recording

1. In the South, Op. 50 "Alassio" by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Riccardo Muti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Scala Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903-1904; England 
Date of Recording: 07/1993 
Venue:  Teatro Abanella, Milan, Italy 
Length: 21 Minutes 54 Secs. 
2. Serenade no 1 in D major, Op. 11 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Riccardo Muti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Scala Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857-1858; Germany 
Date of Recording: 07/1993 
Venue:  Teatro Abanella, Milan, Italy 
Length: 48 Minutes 55 Secs. 

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