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Cat. No. CHAN 10709 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10709 - Elgar: Cello Concerto/Introduction and Allegro/Elegy/Marches Nos 1 to 5
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Available From: 15 March 2012

Elgar: Cello Concerto, Op. 85; Introduction and Allegro, Op. 47; Elegy for strings, Op. 58; Pomp and Circumstance Marches Nos 1 – 5, Op. 39 – Paul Watkins (cello),

BBC Philharmonic, Sir Andrew Davis

Paul Watkins is the cello soloist in a recording that showcases some of Elgar’s most popular works. The conductor, Sir Andrew Davis, is steeped in the English music tradition.

Elgar studied the violin from a young age, and had some early hopes of making a career as a soloist. Consequently, he wrote for the strings of the orchestra with a special understanding and flair, not least in a handful of works for strings alone. The showpiece among these is the Introduction and Allegro, written in 1904, for the newly formed London Symphony Orchestra to be included in an all-Elgar concert. The premiere performance was conducted by the composer.

Elgar started writing his Pomp and Circumstance Marches in 1901 in the wake of his national successes with the Enigma Variations and The Dream of Gerontius. The Marches vary considerably in mood. The First March gained worldwide fame largely due to the trio melody, which Elgar considered ‘a tune that comes once in a lifetime’, and the Second displays a certain air of urgency with its brazen horn calls and jaunty trio. Also on this disc is Elgar’s intimate and restrained Elegy for strings.

The Cello Concerto in E minor, written in 1918 – 19, was the last major work Elgar completed. Its mood is often described as ‘autumnal’, and highly reflective of the ageing composer’s own state of mind. At the time of writing it, Elgar was concerned about the failing health of his wife and about his own waning popularity; he was deeply disturbed, too, by the horrors of the First World War. Paul Watkins writes of his experience of recording this work: ‘It is a privilege to have the opportunity to add my voice to the many different interpretations of this iconic work. I prepared for this recording by using my experience as a conductor: in other words, to study Elgar’s masterful score as deeply as possible, and to realise how intimately the solo cello is linked to the orchestra throughout. In this respect I feel fortunate to have been working with Sir Andrew Davis. He is the most natural and intelligent interpreter of Elgar I know.’

Reviews

"Amongst recent traversals of the work, it is the superlative Chandos account from British cellist Paul Watkins, with the BBC Philharmonic under Andrew Davis, which seems to offer the best of all possible worlds. Watkins brings to the score a freshness of approach and depth of comprehension that has the capability of alerting the listener to new possibilities within the work at practically every turn. Recorded sound and orchestral playing, too, are magnificent.“
 
Michael Jameson - International Record Review - March 2013

             Recommended
Christopher Breunig - HiFi News 2012 Yearbook

                        ****
PT - Ritmo magazine - September 2012

"...Chandos, as usual, has come through with a recording bearing a good deal of pomp and circumstance of its own. If Elgar’s music affects you as it does me, this is a disc you must have."
Jerry Dubins - Fanfare - September/October 2012


“...This is a fine, satisfying and enjoyable addition to the many recorded versions of the concerto. The Introduction and Allegro starts boldly, with full bodied well balanced string sound from which the solo quartet emerges in a pleasing near focus; lovely warm playing from the quartet... a fine and enjoyable performance. The Elegy is warmly and movingly played with a most beautiful string sound. It has moments of extraordinary calm where Sir Andrew shows his legendary control. The piece is a miniature delight ...”
Chris Huggett – Elgar Society – August 2012

                              *****       Exceptional
Riccardo Cassani – Musica magazine – July/August 2012

"This is the best rendition of Pomp and Circumstance No 1 That I’ve ever heard ..."
Donald R Vroon - American Record Guide - July/August 2012

"...The BBC Philharmonic sound as if they are enjoying themselves, and there is a vibrant sense of collective positivity in the whole programme – even from the tragic tones of Elgar’s last major masterpiece. With stunning recorded sound, what more could one ask."
 
Dominy Clements - musicweb-international.com - 19 June 2012


          “Supersonic”
Guy Engels – Pizzicato magazine – June 2012

Performance (Introduction & Allegro) ****  Performance (The Rest) *****      Recording *****

“...there are times when a recording of a  popular classic comes along that’s so fresh, understanding and heartfelt that it demands to be approached solely on its own terms. Paul Watkins’s Elgar Cello Concerto is firmly in that class.... Recorded sound is beautiful: atmospheric, clear and finely balanced.”
Stephen Johnson – BBC Music Magazine – July 2012
 

                             Gramophone Choice  
“..Every Elgarian should investigate this release, which has been engineered with resplendent realism in the BBR Philharmonic’s new Salford.”
Andrew Achenbach – Gramophone magazine – July 2012  
 

 

                    **** Excellent      **** (Sound) Exceptional
Michel Fieury – Classica magazine – June 2012

“...This is an excellent disc which I’ve enjoyed greatly. The playing of the BBC Philharmonic is excellent ... Add to that a splendid soloist in the Cello Concerto and you have a distinguished release. The performances are reported in excellent Chandos sound, which has all the presence and detail that one expects from this label...”

John Quinn – MusicWeb-International.com – 22 May 2012

               CD of the Week
“...His [Watkins] playing -  of exceptional beauty, refinement and technical address – is all the more remarkable given that he is no longer a full-time soloist ... a varied programme executed with panache in state-of-the-art sound.”
Hugh Canning – The Sunday Times - 15 May 2012

“... The tone of the performance, the phrasing and the ebb and flow of the music between darkness and light seem to summon up the quintessential Elgar.”  ****
Geoffrey Norris – The Telegraph – 5 May 2012

“...In addition to Watkins’s songful account of the Concerto and Davis’s elegant way with the five Marches, we have a sensitive Introduction and Allegro, capturing all the atmosphere and wistfulness of the Elgar idiom, plus the short Elegy for strings. For anyone wanting a bit more that the Enigma Variations, this CD represents good value.”
Andrew Clark – Financial Times – 5 May 2012

“...The Cello Concerto is not a rarity, but to find it coupled with the Introduction and Allegro for Strings and the five Pomp and Circumstance Marches is unique in my experience. And the little Elegy is here as well. Davies brings a rare panache to the Marches, the string piece soars and cellist Paul Watkins brings a fine touch to the Concerto. Recorded in the orchestra’s new hi-tech studio in Salford, this is altogether a great success.”
Peter Spaull – Liverpool Daily Post – 20 April 2012
 

“...Watkins makes the music speak of pain, loss and rueful beauty ... There’s also perfect rapport between soloist, conductor and orchestra. Watkin’s ten years of conducting experience comes into play here, and the union of thought in the opening stretch is remarkable...”  ****
Geoff Brown – The Times  - 6 April 2012

“...Watkin’s account [Elgar Cello Concerto] seems the best to have appeared on disc for years. It has intensity, presence and warmth, which never topples over into sentimentality, and Davis and the BBC Philharmonic accompany with panache; the exchanges in the scherzo are wonderfully deft. The rest of the disc is equally fine...”
Andrew Clements – The Guardian – 6 April 2012

 

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