Sunday, April 20, 2008

Edward Elgar: Symphony #2

Anyone who made it to their high school graduation will instantly recognize Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March #1, which features possibly one of the most memorable classical music melodies of the 20th century.

But I wouldn't bother making today's recording, Elgar's Symphony #2, a building block of your classical music collection.

Sir Adrian Boult and the London Philharmonic Orchestra
Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

Symphony #2 (1911)
EMI Classics, 1991 (0riginal recording 1976)

The symphony seemed both shapeless and plotless to me, even after two close listens. That would be fine if the music were in any way arresting or beautiful (see Debussy or Vaughan Williams, both of whom composed shapeless, plotless beautiful music), but I found I had zero emotional involvement in this symphony throughout.

In fact, if anybody would like my copy of this CD, just shoot me a quick email with your snail-mail address (see my profile for my email) and I'll be happy to mail it to you. First caller wins.

One quick listener note: I'm not one to pick apart mistakes in a recording, but I can't help noticing them. If you listen very carefully at the 7:50 mark in track #3 (the second movement) of this recording you'll hear the oboe player badly miss a couple of notes. Ouch.


Chip said...

As a trombone player, I performed this piece (in one form or another) for 6 years - after having heard it at least a half dozen times before that. When it came time to graduate I cringed when the music began - which is unfortunately, because it really is a lovely piece.

Many years later I heard yet another version of it, but this time in a concert (when I didn't realise I was going to hear Pomp and Circumstance - but thought I was hearing something from Elgar - opps, same thing!). Anyway, the music was lovely and really changed my impression of it.

However, that said, would I purchase a recording of it - even a flawless one? No, not likely. Sorry, Mr Elgar, no disrespect. It's just a bit overdone in the US.

Daniel Koontz said...

I hear you... in fact if I recall correctly the trombone parts in Pomp and Circumstance pretty much suck. Just like the trumpet parts... :)

But the brass parts in Symphony #2 sound like they'd be even LESS fun to play--maybe with the exception of the ripping high B trumpet note in the final movement.

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Yeah, the trombone part for Pomp sucks. I mean, between the repetivity and the boring rhythm, it kills imagination.