There are myriad recordings of 'In the South' and Elgar's Second Symphony and I possess quite a few of them but few match the intensity and sheer rapturous beauty with which Hickox's recording is informed. On a level of interpretation, it is perhaps only Sir Edward himself who matches Richard Hickox but the composer is obviously recorded in low-fi sound, so the brilliant Chandos recording does trump that factor.
'In the South' is beautifully paced with the wonderfully nostalgic opening catching the listener by the throat whilst the quieter moments also reveal a level of lump in the throat beauty that you will not find elsewhere. Compared to Elgar's own account, Hickox is almost on the same level although one cannot discount the rather excellent Elder on Hallé or a favourite of mine, Yehudi Menuhin's now long deleted account on RPO Tring.
The symphony is a big-boned work and receives an appropriately massive interpretation. The First movement fairly revels in expansiveness and here I would say that only Sir John Barbirolli's Hallé account is perhaps the better although the composer is obviously indispensable as is Sir Adrian Boult on another long defunct Beulah CD with the BBC Symphony. I also enjoyed the pensive slow movement and robust Finale.
As already indicated, the recording is excellent and notes are up to the usual Chandos standards. Those with an SACD player will obviously benefit the most but the sound is quite excellent even on CD. This is a very welcome new recording of an evergreen symphony and overture.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech