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Reviews: Elgar: Symphony No. 2 - Oramo

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Reviews: 3

Site review by akiralx April 27, 2013
Performance:   Sonics:  
I enjoyed this recording, a straightforward performance well recorded.

The orchestra does not sound massively sumptuous as on some RBCDs of this work but there is plenty of warmth as well as detail - many wonderful examples of the composer's fine-spun scoring emerge with remarkable clarity. I doubt this symphony has been given such a fine recording, certainly not from Sydney with Vladimir Ashkenazy, enjoyable though that is.

I have enjoyed Oramo's recording of the Dream of the Gerontius and he is equally attuned to this work. Tempi are orthodox throughout and the performance is compelling - I might not rate it quite as highly as, say, Boult's wartime BBC SO account, or Haitink's Philharmonia version, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

One interesting point is it sounds like the organ has been employed in the climax of the finale, though it is so well integrated that I can't be certain. It seems like there is additional weight and sweep during that section and I'm sure it is done exactly as the composer intended.

Site review by Geohominid June 20, 2013
Performance:   Sonics:    
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

Review by Wartybliggens November 11, 2014 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Some composers I discover and am immediately drawn to, and others I avoid until one day deciding to make an effort to get to know them better, sometimes by force (self-force). Elgar falls in the latter category. I knew and enjoyed the Enigma Variations when I was in college, but after that I avoided Elgar for twenty years (while busy with many other composers, none of them English). So lately I bought this disc (plus the one with the first symphony) and listened many times. I'm pretty sure I had heard the first symphony before but didn't pay attention, while I'm sure I hadn't heard a note of the second. The second symphony is a tough nut to crack as a listener (and I imagine it's quite a challenge for the orchestral players, not to mention the conductor). I had to go through it many times to get a sense for it, and grew to really like this music despite feeling put off at first by its idiom and by the recording itself.

In my experience as a listener, something happens sometimes that I imagine other people must have experienced, but I have never seen expressed so far: I'll get my first recording of a particular work that I've never heard, and then after many listens have a feeling of dissatisfaction in it, even though I've never heard another version. It's as if I begin to dimly understand what's being expressed in the music, and then feel that it's not being expressed well in the performance. This isn't out of any hubris on my part - it's more like being given a picture that's out of focus. It drives you a little nuts. This happened for instance with Enescu's first piano sonata. In my not-so-temporary obsession with that composer, I went through many performances of sonata #1 which ranged from awful to mushy to cold, until hitting on the wonderful one by Dana Ciocarle. Maybe somebody else will do even better, but my point is, my feeling of dissatisfaction with the others turned out to be correct.

I had a similar experience with this Elgar recording. From the first notes, something seems off in the expression. The first held notes don't hold quite long enough. The rhythm seems to get out of balance and certain 'walking' stretches seem stuck in the mud or turn maudlin. It doesn't help that the recording itself is so sub-par. Did the violins really sound that grainy and thin? There is a flatness to this recording that does the music a disservice and lessens the instrumental color. Perhaps it's the hall? I'm not so sure, since the latest recording on the two discs, the Cockaigne Overture, sounds noticeably better. I went looking to see what other performances are considered the best and heard the London / Slatkin version of Symphony #2 from the early 90's. It was so much better, so much more three-dimensional, driven, punchy, and characterized. The brass really shine, and the strings never turn scratchy even in the more strident passages. The overall drama is really communicated.

As I suspect a lot of people visiting this site feel, I want there to be shiny new high-def five-channel recordings that blow the old versions out of the water. It has happened, and when it does it's marvelous, but this particular disc doesn't come close. No smear intended on the musicians, who have done great work elsewhere. I still want to hear the new Nielsen disc from these forces.

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