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Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Symphony No. 2 in E flat major (1909-11) [54.44]
Sospiri for strings, harp and organ (1913-14) [3.50]
Elegy for Strings (1909) [4.14]
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
rec. Stockholm Concert Hall, Sweden, June 2011 (Symphony; Sospiri); August 2012 (Elegy).
BIS BIS-SACD-1879 [63.54]

“Rarely, rarely comest thou,
Spirit of Delight!...
Spirit false! thou hast forgot
All but those who need thee not.”
 
- Percy Bysshe Shelley
 
Elgar’s Second Symphony must have been covered so many times on this site that it seems pointless me going over such old ground again except to express a reminder of its many influences: Alice Stuart Wortley and visits to Tintagel and Italy - especially Venice; the deaths of his friend Alfred Rodewald and King Edward VII, the Empire and the sense of its passing zenith. Those interested in a deeper look at this work might like to follow this link.
 
It is always interesting to hear an Elgar Symphony as read by a foreign conductor. Such recordings are, thankfully, no longer rare as interest in the composer spreads world-wide after years of neglect outside the UK … and inside if I think about the period around the centenary of the composer’s birth in 1957. Oramo’s reading impressed me strongly laid over excellent BIS engineered sound.
 
The opening movement is propelled strongly, the Elgarian swagger is exploited well and that ghostly passage suggesting a malign presence in a garden seems particularly eerie here. The brass is biting and maybe just a tad too forward for some tastes sounding like some bluff colonel, but I don’t mind that at all. Contrastingly, Oramo also makes this movement’s quieter more introspective moments really ‘heart-on-sleeve’ romantic and poetical. The Larghetto, with that funeral march, is dignified and resplendent, the whole movement well-paced and terraced and with soaring heartfelt passion. The Rondo third movement’s ‘migraine’ episode is suitably shattering and Oramo’s finale closely shadows Elgar’s nobilmente heroic mood and that lovely serenity achieved at the end of this closing movement is quite exquisite here.
 
This serenity is maintained through Oramo’s glowing reading of the delicate Sospiri and the touching little Elegy haunts.
 
Altogether a very impressive Elgar programme.
 
Ian Lace 

Masterwork Index: Elgar symphony 2