Author Topic: Elgar's Hillside  (Read 292652 times)

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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3360 on: December 22, 2020, 01:46:15 PM »
I have both Bean/Groves* and Little/Davis, but somehow I haven't listened to them much. In fact I don't even remember having listened to these recordings! Weird. Both are relatively new purchases. That's one interesting thing to do in the near future: To compare these two and see if they make Dong-Suk Kang/Leaper** on Naxos sound "piss-poor" in comparison.  :P

* In the 30 CD EMI Elgar box.
** This was my first Elgar CD ever. I got it in Christmas 1996 as a present from my dad. I had heard Enigma Variations on radio a few weeks earlier and it had changed my life. The whole December 1996 I has talking about Elgar and how I must explore his music because Enigma Variations was just super-promising. I just knew Elgar is my favorite. So my dad got this for me for Christmas and it was such a wonderful way to dive into the music of Elgar! That's why the disc is special to me and it takes miracles to make me call it piss-poor.

Okay, I get it. You can leave the ‘piss poor’ comments alone. It wasn’t the best phrase to describe what I would call passable performances. Anyway, yes, that EMI set would be a nice way to dive into Elgar’s music as there are many fantastic performances, but, unfortunately, it’s OOP, so they’ll have to find another way in.
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Offline 71 dB

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3361 on: December 22, 2020, 02:23:29 PM »
Okay, I get it. You can leave the ‘piss poor’ comments alone. It wasn’t the best phrase to describe what I would call passable performances. Anyway, yes, that EMI set would be a nice way to dive into Elgar’s music as there are many fantastic performances, but, unfortunately, it’s OOP, so they’ll have to find another way in.

Naxos wouldn't have become the giant it is today had they released tons of piss-poor recordings. They managed to release "good enough" recordings and people bought their releases in volumes and the rest is history. "Passable performance" is certainly a better phrase, but I think even it demonstrates a condescending attitude toward the label. Is it fair to evaluate a label based on how they do Mahler or Bruckner when those releases hardly represents the "areas of excelence" of the said label and you have tons of great recordings elsewhere to choose (meaning homework)?

I did not know the Elgar box is already OOP. Shocking! I didn't hurry to buy it, but when I bought it on March 3, 2011 for 37.33 euros delivered it was easily available.  :)
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3362 on: December 22, 2020, 03:04:31 PM »
I did not know the Elgar box is already OOP. Shocking! I didn't hurry to buy it, but when I bought it on March 3, 2011 for 37.33 euros delivered it was easily available.  :)

I never needed to own it, but it’s unfortunate that someone who is new to Elgar wouldn’t be able to buy this set since it’s OOP.
“Works of art create rules; rules do not create works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Irons

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3363 on: December 23, 2020, 02:39:55 AM »
I have both Bean/Groves* and Little/Davis, but somehow I haven't listened to them much. In fact I don't even remember having listened to these recordings! Weird. Both are relatively new purchases. That's one interesting thing to do in the near future: To compare these two and see if they make Dong-Suk Kang/Leaper** on Naxos sound "piss-poor" in comparison.  :P

* In the 30 CD EMI Elgar box.
** This was my first Elgar CD ever. I got it in Christmas 1996 as a present from my dad. I had heard Enigma Variations on radio a few weeks earlier and it had changed my life. The whole December 1996 I has talking about Elgar and how I must explore his music because Enigma Variations was just super-promising. I just knew Elgar is my favorite. So my dad got this for me for Christmas and it was such a wonderful way to dive into the music of Elgar! That's why the disc is special to me and it takes miracles to make me call it piss-poor.

Some father to give such a fulfilling and life-enhancing Christmas present.

I mentioned on another thread that sometimes a composer's most popular work is disparaged because it is popular! I haven't searched but wonder how often Enigma Variations pop up on this thread and others.

On the subject of the VC Ida Haendel is an interesting one. When I first heard it I thought it too slow, but over time I have come to the realisation that with the help of Boult she has more to say then many other versions.

 
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Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3364 on: December 23, 2020, 05:34:31 AM »
Very nice. Have you heard the Little/Davis recording on Chandos? This is my current reference for this concerto, but I’m a big fan of Little’s playing in general. I think she does a good job of navigating the complicated emotional makeup of this work.

Yes I know the Little recording.  I have to say I preferred Little's playing earlier in her career.  On a purely personal level, I am not so enamoured of her sound/vibrato as I was.  Her Elgar as an interpretation is good but it would not make my top 5 or probably top 10 performances and I find the inclusion of the "alternative" version of the last movement cadenza a perfect example of an irrelevant/pointless USP.  I think  I've mentioned it before - in the mid-80's I worked fairly briefly for the agency who represented Oscar Shumsky in the UK.  He was keen to do the Elgar with Andrew Davis but that never materialised.  I think that would have been rather special

Responding to other recent comments in this thread.  No way is Kang with Leaper "piss-poor".  I enjoy it as a performance - yes the orchestral playing does not sound as full or confident as some but that does not dismiss or negate the artistic value.  Kang is a fine player - good enough to appear on BIS several times so no way a "bargain basement" player.  Also - someone said something about not judging Naxos by their Mahler or Bruckner.  Worth remembering that their Tintner Bruckner and Wit Mahler is actually well received and rather fine.  I would say the reverse is often true.  "Big" names on "Big" labels sometimes get adulatory reviews simply because of the perceived status of artist and label which is not always merited......

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3365 on: December 23, 2020, 07:59:21 AM »
Yes I know the Little recording.  I have to say I preferred Little's playing earlier in her career.  On a purely personal level, I am not so enamoured of her sound/vibrato as I was.  Her Elgar as an interpretation is good but it would not make my top 5 or probably top 10 performances and I find the inclusion of the "alternative" version of the last movement cadenza a perfect example of an irrelevant/pointless USP.  I think  I've mentioned it before - in the mid-80's I worked fairly briefly for the agency who represented Oscar Shumsky in the UK.  He was keen to do the Elgar with Andrew Davis but that never materialised.  I think that would have been rather special

Responding to other recent comments in this thread.  No way is Kang with Leaper "piss-poor".  I enjoy it as a performance - yes the orchestral playing does not sound as full or confident as some but that does not dismiss or negate the artistic value.  Kang is a fine player - good enough to appear on BIS several times so no way a "bargain basement" player.  Also - someone said something about not judging Naxos by their Mahler or Bruckner.  Worth remembering that their Tintner Bruckner and Wit Mahler is actually well received and rather fine.  I would say the reverse is often true.  "Big" names on "Big" labels sometimes get adulatory reviews simply because of the perceived status of artist and label which is not always merited......

We all hear pieces different. I’ve always loved her playing whether it was 30 years ago or today. I think she brings a wealth of emotion and personal experience to this concerto. Not many I can say match her except maybe the Bean/Groves performance, which I do think highly of. I haven’t heard any other performances that have done much for me. This is one of the most difficult concerti to pull off.
“Works of art create rules; rules do not create works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3366 on: December 23, 2020, 03:07:17 PM »
We all hear pieces different. I’ve always loved her playing whether it was 30 years ago or today. I think she brings a wealth of emotion and personal experience to this concerto. Not many I can say match her except maybe the Bean/Groves performance, which I do think highly of. I haven’t heard any other performances that have done much for me. This is one of the most difficult concerti to pull off.

For sure this is a very hard concerto to play successfully - technically very demanding and at the same time emotionally elusive.  It responds to many differing interpretations - the Haendel mentioned above is wonderful but I very much like the earlier Zuckerman/Barenboim recording who play it as an out and out big Romantic concerto with the virtuosity emphasised.  Not an approach I would usually warm to but Zuckerman is so good that criticism seems churlish!

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3367 on: December 23, 2020, 04:29:07 PM »
For sure this is a very hard concerto to play successfully - technically very demanding and at the same time emotionally elusive.  It responds to many differing interpretations - the Haendel mentioned above is wonderful but I very much like the earlier Zuckerman/Barenboim recording who play it as an out and out big Romantic concerto with the virtuosity emphasised.  Not an approach I would usually warm to but Zuckerman is so good that criticism seems churlish!

I don’t think I’ve heard that Zuckerman/Barenboim recording. I know some like Barenboim’s Elgar, but I never could get into it. Maybe a mental block? I don’t know why.
“Works of art create rules; rules do not create works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3368 on: January 12, 2021, 04:18:31 AM »
We all hear pieces different. I’ve always loved her playing whether it was 30 years ago or today. I think she brings a wealth of emotion and personal experience to this concerto. Not many I can say match her except maybe the Bean/Groves performance, which I do think highly of. I haven’t heard any other performances that have done much for me. This is one of the most difficult concerti to pull off.
I just checked out her website.  There's a short video in which she states that she had decided to extend the date of her retirement from concerts to the end of 2020 due to Covid and missed concerts....hoping to be able to reschedule concerts that she was unable to do earlier in the year.  Well, obviously, that didn't happen so am wondering whether or not she might extend her retirement date yet again?

PD

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3369 on: January 12, 2021, 08:52:40 AM »
I just checked out her website.  There's a short video in which she states that she had decided to extend the date of her retirement from concerts to the end of 2020 due to Covid and missed concerts....hoping to be able to reschedule concerts that she was unable to do earlier in the year.  Well, obviously, that didn't happen so am wondering whether or not she might extend her retirement date yet again?

PD

I’m not sure and, honestly, I had no idea of her retirement, so that is news to me. She certainly deserves more attention than she has received in the past. She has a sound that is totally her own and this is tough feat for anyone who has ever played the violin for a number of years.
“Works of art create rules; rules do not create works of art.” - Claude Debussy

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3370 on: March 17, 2021, 05:14:16 PM »
I just read with great interest an interview by violinist Renaud Capuçon about his new recording of the violin concerto (w. LSO, Rattle). This web page from Presto contains audio samples of the performance as well as of 2 historic performances discussed in the interview (Menuhin/Elgar and Sammons/Wood).

https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/articles/3842--interview-renaud-capucon-on-elgar


I listened to these clips in succession and was astounded by the differences. Briefly: a far superior account of the violin part from Capuçon, with astounding precision and purity of tone in alt (check the clip of the 3rd movement). Menuhin in comparison is firm-toned yet his intonation wobbles as he reaches the highest notes.

But then compare the orchestral intro to the first movement: mushy and lethargic under Rattle, firm and resolute under Elgar, with much more forceful accents and energy, very good but rushed under Wood.

So, a remarkable soloist and a terrible conductor (the new release) vs lesser violinists but much better conducting under the composer. Of course a battle of the clips is no way to judge competing recordings, but the juxtaposition is so startling that it really made me pause.

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3371 on: March 18, 2021, 12:04:43 AM »
I just read with great interest an interview by violinist Renaud Capuçon about his new recording of the violin concerto (w. LSO, Rattle). This web page from Presto contains audio samples of the performance as well as of 2 historic performances discussed in the interview (Menuhin/Elgar and Sammons/Wood).

https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/articles/3842--interview-renaud-capucon-on-elgar


I listened to these clips in succession and was astounded by the differences. Briefly: a far superior account of the violin part from Capuçon, with astounding precision and purity of tone in alt (check the clip of the 3rd movement). Menuhin in comparison is firm-toned yet his intonation wobbles as he reaches the highest notes.

But then compare the orchestral intro to the first movement: mushy and lethargic under Rattle, firm and resolute under Elgar, with much more forceful accents and energy, very good but rushed under Wood.

So, a remarkable soloist and a terrible conductor (the new release) vs lesser violinists but much better conducting under the composer. Of course a battle of the clips is no way to judge competing recordings, but the juxtaposition is so startling that it really made me pause.

"Lesser violinists" - Menuhin and Sammons - not being contentious here Andre?!   Capuçon is very fine for sure but helped in no small part by digital recording/editing techniques and the like as well as a different ethos behind the whole idea of recording.  I don't actually know how much editing was expected or possible back on those earlier recordings.  One fact does remain both Menuhin and Sammons influenced generations of violinists to come in a way that I suspect Capuçon will not.  As I say a very fine player indeed but not one for the ages.  There is an interesting facebook group that celebrates 'old school' violinists and central to the debate is the idea that these players from an earlier generation had a substantially less secure technique to many modern players.   The consensus there seems to be that the best of the old school are the equal of the best of the new as far as technique is concerned but that the actual style was often more individual.  What I think is certainly true is that we (the wider listening public I mean) now expect/demand technical perfection first before considering musicality.

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3372 on: March 18, 2021, 02:27:50 AM »
"Lesser violinists" - Menuhin and Sammons - not being contentious here Andre?!   Capuçon is very fine for sure but helped in no small part by digital recording/editing techniques and the like as well as a different ethos behind the whole idea of recording.  I don't actually know how much editing was expected or possible back on those earlier recordings.  One fact does remain both Menuhin and Sammons influenced generations of violinists to come in a way that I suspect Capuçon will not.  As I say a very fine player indeed but not one for the ages.  There is an interesting facebook group that celebrates 'old school' violinists and central to the debate is the idea that these players from an earlier generation had a substantially less secure technique to many modern players.   The consensus there seems to be that the best of the old school are the equal of the best of the new as far as technique is concerned but that the actual style was often more individual.  What I think is certainly true is that we (the wider listening public I mean) now expect/demand technical perfection first before considering musicality.

I suppose a professional will notice intonation etc far more than a non-performer like myself. I grew up with Menuhin/Boult and despite reading in Gramophone and the like that it wasn't as good as Menuhin/Elgar every time a recording (by anybody) of the concerto was reviewed I was completely happy. For years (decades?) it was the only recording I had. Eventually, I bought the Kennedy/Rattle recording but I have only listened to it a couple of times, it hasn't caught my imagination. More recently I bought Zehetmair/Elder and it is now my favourite version. I like the clean sound of this recording which is a bit odd as I usually prefer my Elgar to be opulent. More recently still, I acquired Menuhin/Elgar but find the historical sound a barrier to enjoyment; perhaps I will have to give it another try.

Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3373 on: March 18, 2021, 06:24:18 AM »
Concerning the Violin Concerto, I've always liked the sweeping Igor Oistrakh/Zhuk recording on Melodiya (!) a lot.

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3374 on: March 18, 2021, 10:11:33 AM »
Concerning the Violin Concerto, I've always liked the sweeping Igor Oistrakh/Zhuk recording on Melodiya (!) a lot.

A unique coupling too I remember (at least in the Olympia incarnation) with a equally interesting Britten (different soloist) - I like them too!




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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3375 on: March 18, 2021, 10:49:13 AM »
It got a good review by Rob Barnett on Musicweb too ...
« Last Edit: March 18, 2021, 10:49:57 PM by MusicTurner »

Offline Daverz

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3376 on: March 18, 2021, 02:25:40 PM »
I still like the first recording I acquired, Sitkovetsky with Menuhin conducting.



Is Menuhin/Boult really that bad?  The intonation problems he had by then are well known. 

I'm very interested in finding that Oistrakh now.

Offline André

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3377 on: March 18, 2021, 04:26:39 PM »
Graffin and Ehnes are superb in the concerto. They are my favourites among the 7 versions I own. I have ordered the Menuhin/Elgar, which I used to have in an EMI set of 4 lps featuring the composer as conductor.

BTW when I mentioned ‘lesser violinist’ I didn’t mean ‘lesser artist’. Menuhin’s is still my go to version for the Kreutzer sonata (DG, with Kempff) even though some passages are cringe inducing. For me he owns the score.

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3378 on: March 19, 2021, 02:06:26 AM »
Absolutely agree - Graffin and Ehnes are excellent.  There are so many fine recordings of the Elgar Concerto.  The first I knew "properly" was Zukermann with Barenboim and I still love the big-hearted virtuosity of that.  But an enduring favourite (often mentioned here) is Hugh Bean.  Menuhin as a conductor is especially good at Elgar (even though by all accounts he was truly awful technically as a conductor) - his Symphonies with the RPO and also the cello conc/Enigma/In the South on Tring also with the RPO are very fine indeed.  I'll dig out this Sitkovetsky - I can imagine it being very good too.....

Offline MusicTurner

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Re: Elgar's Hillside
« Reply #3379 on: March 19, 2021, 05:57:34 AM »
I think I got I.Oistrakh on LP as the first version of the work, later Bean and Chung  - that, and maybe Accardo/Hickox, is all I have, now with Igor on CD. Oistrakh's was probably bought in one of many raids in Hungarian, Czech or GDR LP shops in the old Eastern Block days. Often, when starting to collect classical music, the buyings can be a bit random, just to get and explore the repertoire. The Virgin label/Sitkovetsky has been quite well distributed say in the UK though, it's not really obscure I think.

 I agree that it's one of the best violin concertos ever, and it would be in my Top-10 (btw, as opposed to Beethoven's, but that's another story ...).
« Last Edit: March 19, 2021, 06:11:58 AM by MusicTurner »