BBC Music Magazine - - BUILDING A LIBRARY -

BE­SIDES COM­ING THROUGH THE ranks as a pro­fes­sional vi­o­lin­ist, El­gar played sev­eral other in­stru­ments flu­ently, and his knowl­edge here en­gen­dered a work so se­curely writ­ten for ev­ery sec­tion of the orches­tra that it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble for a per­for­mance to come off badly. Then again, achiev­ing an ex­cep­tional one isn’t straight­for­ward ei­ther: the range of mu­si­cal por­traits is so var­ied, with or­ches­tral imag­i­na­tion to match, that find­ing a near-ideal touch with each one can be elu­sive. Sir Mark El­der’s (right) in­ter­pre­ta­tion with the Hallé, recorded live in Manchester in 2002, is as good as you can get. The orches­tra’s way with the Enigma theme sets a bench­mark, with the strings beau­ti­fully shaded and bal­anced.

The vari­a­tion se­quence that fol­lows of­fers one de­light af­ter another – the poise of the open­ing wood­wind in ‘R.B.T.’ (Richard Town­shend); a hushed be­gin­ning to ‘Nim­rod’ (Al­fred Jaeger, El­gar’s pub­lisher), mak­ing the mu­sic’s growth to­wards its ex­alted per­ora­tion all the more mem­o­rable; and a won­der­fully poignant con­tri­bu­tion from the cel­los in ‘B.G.N.’ (Basil Nevin­son, El­gar’s cel­list col­league).

The emo­tional charge that builds through all this is gen­uinely moving. There’s a sep­a­rately recorded bonus of El­gar’s orig­i­nal fi­nale to the work, whose abrupt fi­nal bars Jaeger and Richter per­suaded him to ex­pand af­ter that his­tory-mak­ing first per­for­mance.

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