Elgar 'Enigma Variations' and Overtures
Sir Edward Elgar’s aristocratic bearing and position in genteel society belied the fact that he was the son of a humble shopkeeper from a quiet provincial cathedral town. His father ran a music shop in Worcester, a city with a strong musical tradition that included the thriving Three Choirs Festival. The family’s relative poverty ensured that the young Elgar could never aspire to a schooling in one of the traditionally prestigious musical establishments. This perhaps saved his spark of original genius from being suffocated by the dry academic climate that prevailed in such institutions. Instead, he enjoyed unlimited access to the contents of his father’s shop, studying Cherubini, Mozart and the symphonies of Beethoven from scores off the shelf. He acquired his outstanding gift of writing for strings through laborious observation of the concerti grossi by Handel.
A pleasantly warm, well-detailed and nicely balanced sound welcomes you from Nimbus's new disc. We are familiar with Boughton's very good English String Orchestra, and the new extension of that body into the English Symphony Orchestra has brought still higher standards of execution. Boughton's records of English string music have shown him to be a sympathetic Elgarian, an impression which is sustained by the new issue.
William Boughton’s reading bubbles with life.
In the opening portraits the depiction of Alice Elgar is nicely winsome and graceful, and William Meath Baker slams out of the room in grand style. Nimrod proceeds nobly at a nicely steady speed. Dr Sinclair’s bulldog Dan really barks for once; I have rarely heard this little bit of musical depiction so well handled. Boughton secures fine playing in the finale and the result is most exciting.
The two overtures are also excellently done. After hearing Roger Norrington’s mannered and unconvincingly nuanced reading of Cockaigne at the opening night of this year’s Proms, I almost feared that the work was losing its edge for me; but Boughton restores my faith in the score by injecting all the red blood corpuscles that the grandly romantic writing needs. Boughton pushes plenty of adrenalin into the playing, and the result is convincing.
The recording is nicely natural, with the orchestra set slightly back in a resonant acoustic, but all the essential points in Elgar’s magnificent scoring come through loud and clear. Paul Corfield Godfrey, MusicWeb-International.com August 2012