Magazine article Gramophone

Elgar: Symphony No 1

Magazine article Gramophone

Elgar: Symphony No 1

Article excerpt

Elgar

Symphony No 1, Op 55 (a). In the South (Alassio), Op 50 (b)

Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Sir Antonio Pappano

ICA Classics (F) ICAC5138 (75' * DDD) Recorded live at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, (a) January 21, 23 & 24, 2012; (b) March 18 2013

Hot on the heels of the Germans--Barenboim's Staatskapelle Berlin--the Italians now boldly go where they too can rarely, if ever, have been before. And, while Pappano is nothing if not dynamic and wholehearted in his approach to this wonderful piece, the proximity of Barenboim's inspirational account only serves to highlight the new arrival's shortcomings. There are few trickier works in the symphonic repertoire and the truly astonishing thing about Barenboim's reading (and his orchestra's playing) is just how organic it feels and how naturally it is achieved. The rightness of every tempo, the effortlessness of every phrase, makes for something at once integrated and spontaneous.

Where Barenboim simply announces the opening nobilmente theme, Pappano 'presents' it, placing and pointing with just a hint of affectation in the turning of that all-pervasive tune. There is already a sense of him 'working' the material; and, as this most turbulent of movements progresses and tricky transitions come and go, what we don't really get is the bigger picture--of lyric remnants from happier times being swept along on chilly winds of change. One is conscious of the joins in Pappano's account and the playing of the Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia, though committed, feels strenuous rather than muscular, as if wrestling with the material as opposed to being at one with it. …

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