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CD Review

Edward Elgar

  • Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85
  • Sea Pictures Op. 37
  • Concert Overture: Cockaigne (In London Town) Op. 40 *
Jacqueline Du Pré, cello
Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
* Philharmonia Orchestra/John Barbirolli
EMI Great Recordings of the Century 562886-2 69m ADD
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One of the finest ever performances of Elgar's Cello Concerto ever, Jacqueline du Pre's memorable recording with Sir John Barbirolli is now enshrined in this beautifully remastered Great Recordings of the Century release. The additions of 'Cockaigne' and a lovely 'Sea Pictures' with Janet Baker in glorious form complete a disc that should not need too much praise from me, as it has already been in the annals of recording history for almost half a century and still sounds magnificent.

The Cello Concerto is truly marvelous. The First Movement is marked Adagio-Moderato and Barbirolli backs these tempi up to the hilt. The virtuosity of du Pre' is quite astounding especially in the concluding cadenza like part that surpasses all except perhaps Beatrice Harrison in the original EMI recording with Elgar himself. The two inner movements are also magically played whilst the Finale is given all the weight and beauty that would could imagine from these two great artists. The London Symphony play the work to the manner born, having been associated with it for over four decades.

The disc actually begins with the celebrated 'Cockaigne' Overture that sounds terrific for its age and with the Philharmonia Orchestra on true top form. Barbirolli knows all the nooks and crannies of this celebrated piece and he brings forth the in depth character of the music like only a Londoner can. Dame Janet Baker's 'Sea Pictures' are exquisitely poised and beautifully done especially the opening 'Sea Slumber-Song' and the mystic 'Where Corals Lie'. This was one of the most rewarding experiences for me as I was not familiar with it so much beforehand.

The classic 1960 EMI recordings have come up quite beautifully and there are fine notes by Michael Kennedy together with some rare session photographs. I would wager quite a sum that most enthusiasts would already have this version in their collections, some way or another, but for those who still have to discover this disc, it is a must purchase for all who love and cherish great music by great interpreters.

Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech