Royal PO's performance is outstanding in many ways. Menuhin has deep understanding of Elgar's music and its innermost yearning. Every movement displays his genuine affinity with the inspiration and characterisation of the music. Tempi are perfectly judged throughout, the famous 9th variation Nimrod, for example, is neither too fast nor too slow, achieving maximum grandeur and dramatic effect without losing forward momentum. The fast variations are bursting with energy and verve, the slow variations are played with amazing subtlely and heart warming intimacy. The additional organ in the last variation amplifies the scale of the monumental finale.
This disc includes memorable performances of popular Elgar miniatures and rarely played gems like Soliloquy for oboe, Chanson de nuit (one of the most sublime melodies by Elgar) and Sursum corda. Norman Del Mar and George Hurst conducts Bournemouth Sinfonietta with genuine affection and finesse.
Sol Gabetta’s first recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto, with the Danish National Symphony, was much admired when it appeared six years ago. This one, taken from a concert in the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus in 2014, is a far glossier affair orchestrally. Simon Rattle’s tendency to overmould the phrasing is sometimes too obvious, but Gabetta’s playing is intense and searching, less introspective than some performances in the Adagio, perhaps, but epic in scale in the outer movements, and always keenly responsive. Those who possess her earlier disc might not think they need to invest in this one, but would then miss Gabetta’s vivid, pulsating account of the Martinů concerto, which went through a quarter of a century of revisions before the definitive 1955 version she plays here, with Krysztof Urbański conducting. She finds real depth and intensity in it, both in the slow movement and in the introspective episode that interrupts the finale’s headlong rush.